With the evident lack of progress in budget negotiations over the last several days, Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said Washington appears to be headed for a shutdown of state services - the deadline for which is now just one week away.
According to Murray, who has been sounding the alarm for several weeks now, this would be unchartered territory.
“Democrats have controlled the Senate, the House and the Governor’s Office for many years and we’ve have many special sessions – but we’ve never shut down state government,” said Murray. “The clear difference this time is the Republican majority in the Senate and their obvious political agenda. But the time for politics passed months ago – there’s a real emergency headed our way. A Republican shutdown of state services would pose a serious hardship for Washington’s middle-class families.
“Our public schools don’t know what their budgets will be for the next school year,” Murray said. “This makes it impossible for them to plan for our kids’ education. Our public universities are in the same boat – they don’t know how many students they can admit, how much tuition to charge or how much financial aid they can make available. It’s not Democrats that Republicans will be harming if this comes to pass – it’s our young people and their ability to meet and create the opportunities of tomorrow.”
Murray said there are plenty of immediate impacts from a Republican shutdown of state services that will be felt today. “Our state parks will close – right at the height of the summer vacation season,” said Murray. “Next week, nearly 7,000 families who made reservations at our state parks for the first week of July will receive notice that the parks may well be shut down when they arrive.”
A Republican shutdown would also affect public safety, said Murray. “The 8,000 employees at our state corrections system will be reduced to 3,000, and those layoffs will include our community corrections officers,” Murray said. “Sex offenders will no longer be tracked. Our state prisons will close to new offenders, sending them instead to our already overburdened county jail facilities. This is not a recipe for safe middle-class communities.”
Murray said that a Republican shutdown would also dramatically affect vulnerable populations and those striving for the middle class. “As far as the disadvantaged are concerned, we’re really seeing a let-them-eat-cake kind of attitude from Republicans.”
Under a Republican shutdown scenario, Murray said that those who would “eat cake” include:
· Parents who rely upon Working Connections Child Care in order to afford to work and stay off welfare;
· Preschool children who rely upon the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program for early learning opportunities and nutrition and health support;
· Struggling families who receive food and nutrition under the Women, Infants and Children program;
· HIV patients who receive health services from the Department of Health;
· Mentally ill individuals who receive treatment from community mental health facilities;
· Struggling seniors and developmentally disabled individuals who receive vital home care support;
· Seniors, and blind or disabled citizens who receive medical services;
· Families who receive food assistance;
· Homeless individuals who receive support and shelter; and
· Children of undocumented immigrants who receive health care services.
Incidentally, Murray noted, many of the services for vulnerable populations that would be threatened by a Republican shutdown would also be eliminated in the Senate Republicans’ unacceptable budget proposal.
“Republicans are playing a cynical game that puts the health, wellness and safety of tens of thousands of Washington families on the line, as well as the jobs of the tens of thousands of state employees staffing these and other efforts,” said Murray. “This is not how our state functions. These are not Washington values. It’s long past time for Republicans to set aside their political agenda and focus instead on a budget plan that works for Washington’s families.”