OLYMPIA—A state government shutdown has never happened before in the history of Washington state. But what happens if a budget agreement isn’t reached by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year? The state House representatives from the 1st Legislative District are concerned about the effects of a shutdown on the district and the state.
One of the most immediate, noticeable impacts would be the closure of all state parks starting July 1, just in time for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Nearly 11,000 reservations at campsites, cabins and yurts would be cancelled, as well as picnic area reservations at day-use parks like Saint Edward State Park. The ripple effects of these cancellations and closures would be felt in every community that benefits from parks-related tourism.
Fish hatcheries also would cease operations during a shutdown, meaning the potential loss of millions of fish and setting back state conservation and salmon restoration efforts.
“A shutdown of state parks and fish hatcheries would be a huge blow to our economy, right at the peak of the summer camping and outdoor recreation season,” said Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell. “It also squanders some of our most cherished public assets. Our campgrounds and recreation areas provide an affordable vacation option for families, and we’re on the verge of shuttering them.”
Public safety would be at risk and local jail capacity stretched as state prisons would stop accepting people who are sentenced. With community corrections officers temporarily laid off, approximately 18,000 former inmates under community supervision would no longer be supervised.
Both families and employers would be impacted by the loss of state childcare assistance. Approximately 31,000 working families rely on this assistance and without it, families will be scrambling to find alternative care so they can still go to work.
The impact to each school district of a state government shutdown would vary, but the lack of a budget deal in Olympia could be damaging for teacher retention.
“Our schools are facing uncertainty in developing their budgets, which really hurts their ability to retain good teachers,” said Rep. Shelley Kloba, D-Kirkland. “The unacceptable delay in reaching a budget agreement could mean some teachers seek more stable employment. When good teachers leave the profession, it’s a loss for our kids and our schools.”
Stanford and Kloba are frustrated it took Senate Republicans two special sessions to finally begin negotiating a budget agreement with House Democrats. Now that budget negotiators are exchanging offers, they remain hopeful a compromise will be reached in time.
However, temporary layoff notices will still go out to 32,000 state employees this week, and state agencies are preparing for a possible shutdown.