Again, talks turn to closing the state government

At the direction of Gov. Jay Inslee, agency leaders are updating their contingency plans for furloughing workers, suspending contracts and locking up if a new state budget is not in place when the fiscal year begins July 1.

  • Wednesday, May 31, 2017 11:30am
  • Opinion

The process of shutting down state government is under way, again.

At the direction of Gov. Jay Inslee, agency leaders are updating their contingency plans for furloughing workers, suspending contracts and locking up if a new state budget is not in place when the fiscal year begins July 1.

“While we consider it unlikely these plans will need to be implemented, it is again prudent to update this information in the event of a worst-case scenario” wrote David Schumacher, Inslee’s budget director, in an April 25 letter to agency directors, university presidents and statewide elected officials.

It should be no sweat. This is the third time in five years agency chiefs received such a letter. For them, most of the heavy lifting occurred four years ago when they, along with Inslee, first rode this political merry-go-round.

Back in June 2013 they figured out which public services would be idled and which would not because federal law or the state constitution mandate they be provided.

For example, public universities and community colleges would remain open, as would prisons and state hospitals. But state parks would close, some convicted sex offenders wouldn’t be watched as closely when released and state-supported child care wouldn’t be provided for some children in low-income families.

At that time, agencies sent temporary layoff notices to thousands of state employees as required by collective bargaining agreements. And private contractors got letters warning they might not get paid if there was no budget.

That year lawmakers reached a deal June 27, passed the budget June 28 and the governor signed it June 30.

In 2015, they did it all over again then watched as Inslee signed a new budget at 11:39 p.m. June 30.

It’s unclear how many steps they’ll need to repeat in 2017. Right now the Republican-led Senate and Democrat-controlled House are at odds on how much money is needed for the next two years of government operations and where it will come from.

What can be said is Inslee is probably the most experienced chief executive in Washington history on the subject of shutting down state government. If he’s not running for president in 2020, he could earn a hefty salary advising governors on the best ways and means of doing it in their states.

There’s actually never been a government closure in this state but Washington started a fiscal year without a budget in 1951. Back then, the fiscal year began April 1.

Gov. Booth Gardner had a close call in 1991. Gov. Gary Locke did, too, in 2001. It was so close he issued an executive order on how government would continue to operate in the emergency of having no budget.

Inslee has gone through this process three times which seems to be enough experience to consider it a learned behavior. He can recount the tension enveloping his team as it prepped for a shutdown the first time, amid escalating public concern of the potential disruption to their lives.

“This is uncharted ground,” Inslee told reporters at the time.

Not any more.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

More in Opinion

Eyman risking retirement funds on car tab initiative

Will the $500,000 investment be enough to get the initiative on a ballot?

U.S. isn’t the only nation flirting with trade wars

There’s another brewing between Alberta and British Columbia.

I wish I could stay in Enumclaw | Guest Columnist

There is a kindness and decency and desire to be a community in Enumclaw.

We live in frightening times

Our country is being torn apart from limb to limb, coast to coast.

Voting habits tied to feelings of security

The dangers of authoritarianism are a far greater threat to the nation than seeing rising racial equality and religious diversity brought about by immigration.

Prepared in all ways but the one that mattered

We need to change the way we think about rape.

Please help the Sumner Food Bank

We have a need for a walk-in freezer with a capacity of approximately 700 cubic feet.

Watch for deer when driving

Two have been killed in Bonney Lake in the past month.

Teachers seeking pay raise; districts resist

They’re talking 15 percent for all certificated staff and 37 percent for the classified education support professionals they represent.

Election tampering anger could unite county’s voters

Having a common enemy is an effective means to cover over differences between political ideologies and unite the nation against a common foe.

Thank you for the fun holiday contests

And I would also like to thank Olsens Meats for supplying the corned beef and ham for the winners.

Thanks for an awesome bingo night

Byron Kibler PTA would like to thank the following local businesses (in… Continue reading