Shutdown on the horizon, legislature inches closer to approving budget

By Stefanie Donahue

State lawmakers have reached a preliminary budget agreement, according to a statement released June 28 by governor Jay Inslee’s office. They have until midnight June 30 to sign a budget before dozens of agencies face partial or complete shutdown, according to the Office of Financial Management (OFM).

June 21 marked the final day of the second special session, which resulted in no budget agreement. Now entering a third session, governor Jay Inslee is calling on legislators to agree to a two-year budget by the end of the fiscal year on June 30 to prevent a shutdown of state services. In a statement, Inslee said he would refuse to consider a short-term 30-day budget.

“A government shutdown and a 30-day budget are both equally reckless, equally irresponsible, tactics that fail to deal with the long-term fiscal and fiduciary consequences of not doing their job, which is to produce a two-year budget for the people of the state of Washington,” he said.

At press time, few details about the “agreement in principle” were available, however the governor’s office confirmed it covers spending and resource levels.

“The negotiators and caucus leaders said they were confident that they would complete work on the budget and have a vote of the legislature before the end of the day Friday, the final day of the fiscal year,” read the statement.

According to the OFM, approximately 32,000 agency employees will receive temporary layoff notices in the event of a shutdown.

Washington State Parks is one of the agencies that will be impacted. An estimated 1.4 million day-use and overnight visitors will be affected; nearly 11,000 paid camping and overnight reservation holders will need to be notified of cancellations for the first week of July. If a shutdown occurs, state park staff will process automatic refunds once a budget is approved, according to OFM. Full refunds are being offered up to arrival for dates between June 30 and July 8 by phone at 888/226-7688. Head ranger at Birch Bay State Park, Ted Morris said staff have already sent out several emails to inform campers.

State park visitors holding reservations will not be permitted to set up camp and campers will be asked to pack up and leave the morning of June 30. Park gates will be closed and neither park employees or volunteers will be on site. According to Birch Bay State Park staff, the shoreline of the park will remain open even if a shutdown occurs. State parks are expected to lose an estimated $2 million in revenue for camping, overnight accommodations, Discover Pass and other user fees between June 30 and July 7, according to the OFM.

“Public safety risk increases on ocean beaches over the Fourth of July holiday, without ranger law enforcement patrols,” read an OFM statement. “With municipalities banning fireworks, public pressure on the beaches in recent years has created mounting problems with illegal fireworks, wildfire, alcohol and drug related problems, and injuries.”

In the case of a government shutdown, the Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to face disruptions to services for thousands of veterans and their families. Washington State Patrol will halt processing DNA samples, which involves about 250 cases per month. The Department of Social and Health Services will stop providing assistance to 25,000 adults who are in need of housing and other essential services.

Remaining agencies to be impacted by a potential shutdown include state health care authorities; Department of Early Learning; Department of Corrections; Department of Labor and Industries; Department of Health; Department of Fish and Wildlife; Department of Ecology; Department of Agriculture; Department of Commerce; Washington’s Lottery; Department of Licensing; Department of Enterprise Services; Utilities and Transportation Commission; Department of Revenue; Recreation and Conservation Office; and the Washington Military Department.

  1. Dear Legislators, Your failure to formulate a budget compromise prior to the closing hours of the biennium is overshadowed only by your failure to accept responsibility for the thousands of people whose livelihoods are threatened every two years. Republicans say that government should be run like a business. Well then, as your employer, I want you to know that your performance fails to meet the minimum acceptable standard for your position description. Republicans and Democrats alike… you’re fired!

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