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Washington state begins planning for possible government shutdown

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee held a Cabinet meeting Wednesday and instructed all state agencies and departments to begin contingency planning for a possible state government shutdown on July 1.

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Mary Alice Heuschel, chief of staff to Gov. Jay Inslee, said Wednesday, “We just began a difficult but very necessary process, to prepare for July 1 in case a budget agreement is not reached.”

The agencies were instructed to provide the governor’s office by end of business on Monday, June 17, a list identifying which of their programs could legally continue and which would have to be closed without a new state appropriation when the fiscal year ends June 30.

At the same time, the Legislature started its second special session Wednesday in an attempt to reach a compromise on a state budget. Without a deal and passage of a budget, the state will have no appropriations when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

The state has never before had to shut down the government.

The Democratic-controlled state House wants a budget to include new tax revenue, while the Republican-controlled Senate wants a budget to include deep budget cuts and no new taxes.

After the governor’s Cabinet meeting, Inslee’s chief of staff, Mary Alice Heuschel, told reporters, “We just began a difficult but very necessary process, to prepare for July 1 in case a budget agreement is not reached. (Our) time frame is very quick. We remain hopeful that that (government shutdown) will not become necessary. This is a challenging situation and we hope this does not occur.”

David Schumacher, director of the state Office of Financial Management, told reporters at the briefing that the U.S. Constitution, Washington Constitution and other mandates prevent the cutoff of some services, such as closing the state’s prisons in the Department of Corrections.

“We’re not talking about opening up the prison doors,” he said.

Schumacher added that there are more than 600 state budget accounts. “Over half of those are non-appropriated accounts” and would be able to continue despite a government shutdown, he said.

“This (potential shutdown) only applies to those accounts that need appropriations. We also have a transportation budget (already passed) that will cover large portions of the Department of Licensing, Department of Transportation.”

In a letter sent Wednesday to all agency directors, statewide elected officials, presidents of higher education institutions and state-funded boards and commissions, Schumacher asked that they identify which of their activities could or could not continue without authorized appropriations and to get back June 17.

The governor’s office will then start deciding which services and agencies would need to close on July 1.

“Many important programs and services will cease, absent timely legislative appropriations. Therefore … I am also asking that agencies identify services that are necessary for the immediate response to issues of public safety, or to avoid catastrophic loss of state property,” the letter said.

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8 comments

  • NAVYTOWN

    Naturally the only answer the Democrats ever support is to RAISE TAXES. They never propose spending less. It's really very simple……spend what you take in, and no more. Don't just keep raising taxes year after year on struggling citizens.

  • Matt

    Yeah but raising taxes is easier! Look at property taxes. For five years the value has decreased and taxes increased!

  • Jen

    I wonder how much 2 special sessions cost? And maybe with a little pre planning how avoidable these sessions are? Maybe it would save a few people's jobs and the unemployment rate wouldn't increase. Just wondering. :(

  • Rebecca

    Two special sessions is just outrageous…..If these people that were elected were prepared when they went into discuss these issues …the state could have saved alot of money …but again they have an account that is secured and not under appropreations.
    Why aren't these accounts' monitored on a quarterly basis. Why are'nt people being held accountable each quarter that the accounts are not managed correctly…Good Lord….

  • Carl Constantine

    This is absolutely pathetic. Washington State has suffered for decades under this totalitarian regime. They don't any difficulty whatsoever reaching agreement when it comes to voting themselves pay increases!

  • Diana

    So let's just throw how many more people out of work and onto the unemployment lines!! And onto an an already overburdened food stamp program.
    How about we stop letting Oregonians get away with not paying sales tax? We pump 1000s of $$ into their economy every year. Fair is fair. It may not be a lot but it's a start. And let's see the government officials start by taking pay cuts.
    I have a family member who works for the State for $12.50 an hour. Barely above minimum wage. Supports herself and her two sons on that. Now she won't even have that.