With eight days to go until a possible government shutdown in Washington state, temporary layoff notices have been sent to nearly 32,000 employees.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee called a third special session as lawmakers try to reach a consensus on how to write a budget that also satisfies a state Supreme Court mandate on education funding.
Here’s what we know now on how a government shutdown could impact you based on contingency plans, though leaders say state agencies are going through a great deal of uncertainty because the state has never experienced a partial shutdown.
Temporary lay offs
If the state Legislature doesn’t come up with a budget deal, it’s lights out for many state government operations and at least 32,000 state employees would be temporarily laid off.
Contingency plans for a potential shutdown have been ongoing for weeks, and notices will go out Thursday to employees.
State parks close
All Washington state parks would close July 1. Washington State Park operates more than 100 parks.
In the event of a shutdown, all prior camping reservations will be canceled despite the July 4 holiday.
“The gates will be locked. There will be no skeleton crew. There will be nobody to provide services. There will be no electricity. There won’t be water,” said Virginia Painter with Washington State Parks.
Refunds will be issued for all reservations if a shutdown occurs, but campers are encouraged to keep their existing plans until further notice. State parks are also popular venues for summer weddings, which is tough luck for couples scrambling to find an alternate wedding venue.
No lottery tickets
Gamblers in the state won’t be feeling lucky either: sales of all lottery tickets would cease on July 1.
DOC can’t take any new prisoners
The Department of Corrections would temporarily lose 3,400 of their approximately 8,500 workers. While State Corrections facilities will remain in operation, they would not be able to accept any new prisoners as of July 1. County jails would have to handle all new prisoner intake.
Although Jeremy Barclay with the D.O.C is reassuring the public there are no safety concerns, he does acknowledge that for the roughly 18,000 former prisoners under state supervision, “supervision will be limited… there will be some sex offenders who will not be under community supervision.”
The Washington State Department of Health said it’s disease outbreak protection capabilities crippled.
“Routine disease testing would cease, causing outbreaks to go undetected and unmitigated. No disease outbreak support would be provided which includes tracking, testing, and managing disease prevention efforts,” said David Johnson with the D.O.H.
He notes that the state is currently experiencing a mumps outbreak, with roughly 870 documented cases on record. Other efforts to combat measles, food-borne illness, and sexually transmitted infection would be compromised.
“If there is a shutdown, this will impact the health of all Washingtonians,” Johnson said.
Statewide supervision limited
Twenty-nine state agencies close in the event of a shutdown, limiting supervision for several areas.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife would lose approximately 1,500 employees along with much of their ability to monitor licensing violations, over-harvesting, and poaching. With the State Liquor and Cannabis Board closed, enforcement operations would cease entirely. And at the Department of Social and Health Services, no one will be enforcing delinquent child support payments.
“Our state’s nine child support field offices would all be closed, which would likely result in the loss or delay of about 6,000 … payments per month,” said Adolfo Capestany with DSHS. Additionally, “… There would be no active work done on new child support cases, including enforcement.”
About the history of government shutdowns in Washington
This is the third time in four years state government has been on the brink of closure, all because legislators have failed to agree on budgets in a timely fashion.
In 2013 and 2015, a shutdown was narrowly avoided by last-minute deal-making and stop-gap funding measures. This year, that won’t happen. Inslee earlier this week says he will veto any temporary funding packages that would simply kick the can down the road.
Washington state has never had a partial government shutdown.
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