We have reached the end of the third week of the second special session, which has to end no later than June 28th... and could ostensibly be followed by a third special session (ala 2013!). There was very little public activity in Olympia this week, and, unfortunately, negotiations on the budget were few and far between. Some offers were passed back and forth but were considered unacceptable, and there continue to be significant differences of opinion related to the budget... including on the need for additional revenue.
So, are we facing a government shutdown? That remains to be seen, but hopefully not! We do know, however, that state employees will be receiving layoff notices next week, services providers (who have contracts with the state) have already received notices regarding the termination of their contracts, and contingency plans are being made in critical areas such as child welfare. A very stark example of the impact of not having a budget on June 30th came from the Assistant Secretary for the Children's Administration at the Department of Social and Health Services. In a June 16th memo to Juvenile Court judges, attorneys who represent parents or children in dependency cases, Guardians ad Litem, and Court Appointed Special Advocate programs, Assistant Secretary Strus stated: "...if no budget is passed by June 30th, 2015, the Department will not be able to pay for remedial services ordered in all dependency proceedings [in your county] until such a time as a budget is adopted. This will include services to support supervised visitation. In addition, please be aware that in the event that a budget is not timely passed, Children's Administration will be required to reduce its staffing to only those staff members necessary to respond to emergent CPS intakes and to ensure that foster children receive basic services. All other staff will be notified of their temporary layoff, which will be effective July 1 if the legislature does not adopt a budget..."
A few other examples of services that would be terminated on July 1st: The state Food Assistance Program (a 'food stamp'-like program that serves legal immigrants who are not eligible for SNAP), Working Connections Child Care (the state's subsidized child care program), and the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program.
Whether one is a service recipient, state employee, or community-based provider, the impact of a shutdown will be widely felt and very disruptive. The Office of Financial Management has posted contingency plan information (http://www.ofm.wa.gov/) that identifies what would likely be cut/not cut if there were to be a shutdown. Keep your fingers crossed that the budget will be resolved no later than 11:59 pm on June 30th and that none of the shutdown scenarios will have to materialize.
The House and Senate will be in Olympia next week (or at least a good part of the week), holding committee hearings, conducting floor action on bills necessary to implement the budget, and hopefully coming to resolution on the operating, transportation, and capital budgets (discussions related to the transportation and capital budgets have been suspended until there is agreement on the operating budget).
And on a completely different note (!): On July 30th, 10:00 am to noon, a forum on the practice and policy work that has been going on related to Frontiers of Innovation will take place at UW Tower in the auditorium. It should be an informative morning and a great opportunity to get up to speed on the exciting work that has been happening around the state! To RSVP, please contact:SNYDEJM@dshs.wa.gov.
If you have any questions, email us at email@example.com. Also, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates on our work during the legislative session and throughout the year.
Have a good weekend!
Public Policy Director