Friday, June 26, 2015

What will happen with a Washington state government shutdown?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 1:29 PM

What are you doing at midnight Tuesday? You should be out ringing in the new fiscal year. Meanwhile, the Washington state government might be shutting down. If the legislature can't get the whole budget thing figured out by June 30 — they've had six months so far to do it and haven't — the state government could shut down July 1.

If that happens, more than half of the state's 50,000 employees will be on indefinite stay-home status. All the more reason for end-of-fiscal year debauchery Tuesday night, because, you know, no work the next day for 26,000 people that normally work. State agencies have been prepping for weeks to keep the shutdown from being too much of a disaster. Here are a few of the major shake up areas:

Prison Problems: The Department of Corrections' Jeremy Barclay has been busy making contingency plans for the impending shutdown. "Community corrections will shut down the 30th, it will be suspended," says Barclay. "A lot of our educational programming, those would be suspended." Work programs, too.

Barclay says they won't be cutting inmates loose or anything, though. "It's important that we keep those sentenced to our care away from the public, they will remain," says Barclay. But sex offenders who are currently on round-the-clock GPS monitoring will cease to be monitored. They'll still technically have their monitoring equipment, it's just that the actual monitoring won't be happening 24 hours a day anymore. Aside from that, the gist of the effect on corrections is that prisoners will remain locked up but their days will get more monotonous.

Fish: Fish hatcheries — home to millions of salmon, trout and steelhead who rely on the Department of Fish and Wildlife to feed them — are slated to close. Millions of hatchery fish are equivalent to even more millions of dollars. Salmon and other endangered fish would continue to be cared for.

Fishing and hunting: Planning to go kill some animals or fish and don't have your license yet? Get it before the shutdown — the Department of Fish and Wildlife won't be issuing licenses or Discover Passes until it ends. Of course, enforcement of hunting and fishing rules not related to endangered and protected species will also be on hold, so license scofflaws are unlikely to be ticketed. 

Fourth of July plans: Many of the state parks would close just in time to derail many an Independence Day celebration. Washington State Parks sent notices of possible cancelation to some 10,112 people who have reserved space to recreate in the parks during the first week of July. These reservations for yurts and cabins and bits of grass to pitch a tent on are worth $1.9 million to the state.

Student aid:
State Opportunity Grants for fall quarter will cease to be available to students at universities and community colleges. 

Health: Some big (scary) stuff here. "Skeleton crew in Public Health Lab to conduct newborn screenings and assess potentially fatal biological threats and chemical exposures," according to the Office of Financial Management. HIV client services will be suspended. So will misconduct investigations. Undocumented immigrant children will lose healthcare. As if that wasn't all awful enough, if the shutdown drags out more than two weeks, the state could be in trouble with the federal Medicaid program. 

No more pony play: The Horse Racing Commission will shut down, as will Emerald Downs thoroughbred racetrack. 

Licensing: Put your dreams of becoming a licensed tattooist, bail bondsman or whitewater river outfitter on hold, at least until the shutdown ends. Dozens of professional licenses will not be being issued until the budget is figured out. No new gun licenses, either.

Many more things: A lot of agencies will shut down entirely: things to do with the arts, historical preservation and culture. Stuff that can wait until tomorrow or that can go on hiatus with minimal fall out. Read the Office of Financial Management's contingency plans here. Notice something major we missed? Mention it in the comments!

Things that will not shut down include:

Anything totally life or death

Food for mothers and babies: The Women, Infant and Children (WIC) nutrition program offices will remain open and continue to accept new clients

The Gambling Commission: Because, priorities?

Of course, even an imminent-seeming shutdown can be averted and, historically, that's usually happened in our state; in 2013 similar doom mongering occurred. Then the legislature came through with a budget June 27, Gov. Jay Inslee signed off June 30 and all of Washington breathed a collective sigh of relief.

There's also a new plan introduced by Republican Senator Andy Hill to approve a stop-gap one month budget for July. This would make it so the legislature could keep working on the budget for another month. All state agencies would also stay up and running. Democrats are skeptical, though. What we do know for sure: the fiscal new year is upon us, a celebration is warranted. 

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