OLYMPIA – Washington state has never before shut down the state government. So what would a shutdown mean for Kitsap County families and businesses if lawmakers can’t reach a budget agreement by June 30?
“A shutdown, even of short duration, would have a serious impact on Kitsap County, our region, and the entire state,” said Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-23, Poulsbo).
“This might not be the best analogy, but imagine an aircraft carrier going from cruising speed to a sudden stop. That’s what could happen with many of our vital state functions, and like an aircraft carrier, it will take time to get moving again, no matter how quickly the shutdown ends.”
Appleton cites a few examples:
- In a district with longstanding, strong ties to the military, contracts with veteran service organizations will be suspended. This includes trained service officers who help veterans file 80 percent of all Veteran Administration claims in our state. Veteran-owned businesses will not be certified, all Veterans Service Centers will be closed and veterans will lose access to PTSD treatment.
- State parks will be padlocked on July 1, disrupting Fourth of July vacation plans for countless families, and depriving area retail and service businesses of one of the year’s biggest economic booms. Statewide, nearly a million and a half people are expected to be affected by the closure of all state parks.
- More than 3,000 Department of Corrections personnel will be laid off. While prison doors would not swing open, community supervision would be limited.
- Our efforts to provide improved treatment for persons with mental illness would be drastically set back, and state funding for programs to reduce homelessness and create affordable housing opportunities would immediately cease.
- A wide range of Department of Social and Health Services functions would cease the moment the government shuts down, as would programs overseen by the Departments of Ecology, Natural Resources, Commerce, Fish & Wildlife, Agriculture, and Labor & Industries.
“I’m very sad to see that D.C.-style politics seem to be infecting the Washington state Legislature,” Appleton said. “For five months now, majority Democrats in the House have been imploring the Republicans who control the Senate to join us in serious budget negotiations, and it’s only been in the last few days that these talks have begun.
“Their refusal to help us craft a bipartisan compromise operating budget has put us in the position we’re now in: perched on the edge of an unprecedented disaster for the people of our state, including many of our most vulnerable friends, neighbors, and family members. It should not and need not have come to this.”
The current fiscal period ends at midnight June 30. Without an agreed-upon state operating budget in place, Washington’s state government would close its doors for the first time since statehood was granted nearly 130 years ago.