By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org
The federal government shut down at midnight Monday after Congress was unable to reach an agreement on several budget issues.
But as Tuesday dawns, state governments will carry on with little or no negative consequences in the short-term.
Though the shutdown will limit visitors to national parks and will mean federal bureaucrats get a few days of unpaid vacation time, the effects will be little felt outside of the Washington, D.C., beltway. From New Mexico to New Jersey, state governments have contingency plans in place to deal with shortfalls of federal cash, while other states say they will hardly notice that the lights went out on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Virginia, the state with the largest percentage of federal workers, will continue federally funded programs through Friday.
“It is our hope that this will give budget negotiators additional time to reach a resolution of the budget impasse,” Martin L. Kent, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s chief of staff, wrote in a memo.
But as many as 57,000 federal workers in the state — that’s about one-third of the total — could face furloughs during the impasse.
While federal workers might get an unplanned vacation, state governments should be just fine, even when it comes to federally funded programs like welfare.
Enrique Knell, spokesman for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, said, for now, the state anticipates having reserve balances that could be used to cover many social welfare programs.
“The Governor thinks this is a continued display of the dysfunction in Washington D.C. It’s ridiculous that states have to plan for a possible federal government shutdown, while we work hard at the state level to balance the budget and provide basic government services as efficiently and effectively as possible,” he wrote in an email to New Mexico Watchdog.
It’s “business as usual” in Pennsylvania, according to Jay Pagni, spokesman for state’s Budget Office.
“From a short-term perspective, the governor has directed all agencies that do receive federal funds that business will continue and services will continue to be provided in the short-term,” Pagni said. “We’re closely monitoring what is happening in Washington and eagerly waiting to see what resolution will come about.”
The federal government has shut down 17 times since 1976, but there has not been a shutdown since a 21-day standoff that ended on Jan. 6 1997.
Even at the federal level, this will hardly be a complete shutdown.
Three-quarters of White House staff will be sent home if Congress can’t reach a deal, but it’s not like they’ll stop the tours of the presidential mansion. Those tours ended in March as part of a highly publicized fight over the federal budgetary sequester.
The shutdown will keep park rangers from giving tours at America’s national parks, monuments and historical sites. But it may also keep the Ku Klux Klan from holding a rally at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, so that probably counts as a wash.
Nearly all employees of the Defense Department, including those running the electronic surveillance programs at the NSA, will keep working through the shutdown. So too will the 16,000 FBI agents at 56 field offices around the nation.
The New York Times reports that “most” State Department employees will continue to work, as will “more than half” of the bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services. The Food and Drug Administration will keep inspecting food, National Wildlife Association employees will keep caring for animals in federal parks and the United States Geological Survey will keep Americans aware of any impending volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail, nor a government shutdown will keep the U.S. Postal Service from delivering the mail.
The greatest impact of the government shutdown, for many Americans, may be an even greater exasperation with Washington.
“I think it’s frustration that in all the issues we have to tackle that this goes on. That’s not what those people are there to do, shut things down,” said Faye Whitbeck, president of the International Falls Area Chamber of Commerce in Minnesota. “Cooperation is the name of the game and the name of progress.”
Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and can be reached at EBoehm@Watchdog.org. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87.
Rob Nikolewski, Ken Ward and Matt Kittle contributed to this report.