HARRISBURG - The state will pay about 24,000 government employees who were idled by a one-day partial shutdown last week amid a state budget impasse, Gov. Rendell said yesterday.

The announcement came one day after the governor signed a $27.2 billion spending plan that was delayed two weeks into the fiscal year.

"State employees work very hard to ensure that the needs of Pennsylvanians are met, and they and their families rely on their paychecks to pay their bills," Rendell said in a statement. "It is fair and reasonable that they be paid for the hours they didn't work due to the furlough."

The July 9 furlough will be treated as a paid office closing, such as a snow day, Rendell spokesman Doug Rohanna said. Depending on their pay schedules, employees will receive the money in paychecks issued Aug. 3 or Aug. 10, said Mia DeVane, spokeswoman for the Office of Administration.

Rendell negotiated the payment with unions representing the employees, which he is authorized to do under state labor law, Rohanna said.

The dispute between Rendell and the legislature over state spending and other measures the governor wanted lawmakers to pass led to the shutdown of numerous services and closure of state parks, driver license centers and state-run historic sites. Employees and services deemed critical - such as health care for the poor and state police patrols - were not affected.

The furloughed employees were called back to work July 10 after Rendell and legislative leaders announced a general agreement on the budget and other issues.

David R. Fillman, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 13, said he was pleased with Rendell's decision, noting that workers will not have to use personal or vacation days to make up for the furlough.

Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Republican Leader Sam Smith of Jefferson County, said the Democratic governor's decision to compensate the furloughed employees showed that he used them as political leverage during the impasse.

"It proves he never needed to furlough them to begin with," Miskin said.

Rohanna disagreed, saying the partial shutdown was necessary at the time because the prospects of a final agreement were uncertain.

The furloughed employees lost wages totaling $3.5 million, according to the Office of Administration.