ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here

Spin Control

Posts tagged: government shutdown

Sunday Spin: A Foley debt showdown hard to imagine

It's probably just a coincidence that Tom Foley passed away slightly more than a day after the Congress he loved and served so well managed to end the partial government shutdown and spare the nation the ignominy of default.

He'd been sick for months and on hospice care, and his remaining time was being measured in days not months, his wife Heather had said the previous week. Still, the not so practical part of my brain likes to think the former speaker held on just long enough to make sure the House passed a bipartisan bill to do what most folks thought they needed to do all along.

One of Foley's great maxims was that in Congress, the perfect is often the enemy of the good. . .

A bloc against Obamacare

One reason the shutdown remains so intractable is a core of House Republicans who signalled in August they wanted to eliminate the federal health care reforms.

In a letter to Speaker John Boehner, 80 House Republicans said they supported using the “power of the purse” to end the law. It didn't get much attention at the time, but in the last week, as the shutdown loomed and then occured, national political commentators have pointed to the letter, and its author Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, as a key to they deadlock.

Several readers have asked if Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers or  any of Washington's GOP House members signed onto the letter.They did not. But Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho did.

For a map of the districts of those who signed on to the letter, click here.

Budget deal? Not yet

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee might be the latest player in the state's budget drama to offer an overly optimistic prediction of a possible conclusion.

Legislative sources said late Monday afternoon it seemed unlikely a handshake over a budget agreement would come by Monday night. Although some of the biggest hurdles have been jumped, some smaller details still had to be worked out, and that was pointing to a Tuesday announcement, at the earliest.

At a mid-afternoon press conference, Inslee was there was “a very, very good chance in the next few hours for an agreement.” He also seemed to describe a deal as imminent — but come to think of it, what he really meant was the deal is eminent, which is to say “outstanding.”

Or maybe imminent could be stretched to mean the next day, considering how long negotiations have been going. It's not quite so definitive as last week's “we should be done and out of here by Sunday” prediction from the Majority Coalition that controls the Senate.

Legislative leaders had “found a path” to the deal, Inslee said. He wouldn't describe what allowed them to the path, and what it was paved with, other than to say it was “something significant that I won't be able to share with you.” 

He was going to respect the confidentiality of the budget negotiating process. And why not? The process of conducting budget talks in secret has been working so well for them over the last two-plus months.

But sources close to the negotiations say at least part of the breakthrough involves an agreement to pass a change in telecommunications taxes that equalizes the sales tax for companies that provide land line service and those that provide cellular service; the state  is facing litigation if it doesn't do that.

Revenue from what is generally know as the Telcom fix would allow additional spending on public schools to hit $1 billion — a major goal of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus — rather than some slightly lesser amount the House Democrats were budgeting.

So what do caucus coalition members get for swallowing Telcom? Not clear yet, but one source hinted it could be a change in tax law that is heavily favored by the Association of Washington Business, which changes the tax rules on for something known as “paymaster services”, a way of setting up an umbrella company to handle the payroll of several smaller companies with the same owners. This might not be a particularly heavy lift because the House and Senate versions of that bill have bipartisan sponsorship. 

Time will tell whether that's the last yellow brick that will let them ease on down the road, and out of town. But it would be wrong to play the old Chamber's Brothers song, “Time Has Come Today” yet. 

Spec Sess II Day 13: Layoff notices go out

OLYMPIA — Most state agencies sent notices to their employees around 1 p.m. about temporary layoffs that would be coming if the Legislature does not pass a budget by June 30.

If negotiators for the House and Senate reach an agreement that can be passed before then, there would be no layoffs. While legislators on both sides say the prospects of a deal at some point this week, maybe even at some point today, are good. There's no deal yet.

A source said one group of employees that has not received layoff notices are the staff of the Senate. The Majority Coalition Caucus that controls the Senate has been adamant in their view that a layoff will not happen and any talk of a shut down is, in the words of Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, “nonsense.” 

Gov. Jay Inslee has said that notifying employees that they could be laid off if a budget isn't passed is prudent and contingency plans for a government shut down are required by law.

Inslee has a 2:30 p.m. press conference.

Preparing for shutdown, or a budget deal

OLYMPIA — With state agencies preparing to warn many of their workers of temporary layoffs on Monday, legislators signaled they are close to a deal on a two-year operating budget.

So close, in fact, the leaders of the Senate's Majority Coalition Caucus were predicting it would be “done and out of here by Sunday.”

House leaders were less specific about when a deal could be reached, but Speaker Frank Chopp said a morning of what he called shuttle diplomacy had produced “a good exchange of offers.”

Earlier in the morning, Gov. Jay Inslee's staff released a list of which agencies would be completely or partially shut down, and which would remain open, if the Legislature didn't pass an operating budget by July 1. The budget contains legal authority for the state to spend money on many programs and pay the salaries of state employees connected to them. In the last week, each agency was required to determine which programs get spending authority from a separate account, or would be required under separate constitutional authority, federal law or certain contracts.

In releasing the list, Mary Alice Heuschel, Inslee's chief of staff, said that while budget negotiations are continuing, the state needed an emergency plan.

“Like an earthquake… we need to have a plan in case this occurs,” she said. If there's no budget plan that has been through at least some legislative action by Monday, temporary layoff notices would go out to thousands of state workers because of contract requirements.

As Heuschel and other state officials were finishing up their press conference, Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, and Assistant Leader Linda Evans Parlette stopped in the room on their way to a meeting with Inslee. They left the governor's office a few  minutes later, went to Chopp's office on the House side of the Capitol, then Chopp and Hunter accompanied the Senate leaders to Tom's office on the other side of the building.

Chopp later characterized it as “a good productive conversation” but would give no details. He said it was possible that a budget agreement would be ready and have had some legislative action by Monday. Most House members are back home, but Chopp said they could be brought back to Olympia within the two days it would take to process and print a full budget, if there's an agreement.

Mid afternoon update: Before the Senate's afternoon session started, Tom said budget negotiations were moving well enough that he predicted “an agreement in principle, today or tomorrow.” The biggest question in his mind was how much of the $480 million from an improved economic forecast, lower demand for state services and a change in the estate tax would go into education.

“We are going to finish on Sunday,” he predicted. “There's no reason not to have it all done by then.”

Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said negotiators had exchanged two different offers in three hours and that there were only “a couple sticking points” remaining. He wouldn't elaborate on what those were, but agreed it was “definitely possible” that a budget could be passed by Sunday.

The mechanics of budget writing, however, whould make that difficult unless a deal is struck Thursday. After an agreement is reached on the overall size of the budget and its major components, legislator and staff must go through the document line by line to adjust spending levels for each program in a document that usually exceeds 400 pages. Those figures have to be checked and the document printed, then introduced either as a separate bill or an amendment to an existing budget bill before one chamber can vote on it. 

Government shutdown list in works

OLYMPIA — Despite a slightly better economic forecast and expectations of a budget deal among legislators, Gov. Jay Inslee's office has prepared a list of state services that would and wouldn't be available July 1 if a budget isn't passed.

The preliminary list divides agencies into three categories: No shutdown; partial shutdown and complete shutdown. Among those staying open are the state colleges and universities, the courts and those that receive money from something other than the operating budget, such as the Transportation Department, Innovate Washington, Financial Institutions, Treasurer and Traffic Safety Commission.

Some smaller agencies — the Arts Commission, Public Disclosure Commission, Eastern Historical Society, Liquor Control Board, Human Rights Commission and Indian Affairs — would be among those facing complete shutdown, as would the state Parks.

Partial shutdown is more complicated, but it includes many of the big agencies like Departments of Social and Health Services, Health, Military, Natural Resources, Corrections and State Patrol. But no, the last two don't mean the prisons doors would be thrown open or no one would be writing tickets on I-90.

For a look at the list, click here.

McMorris Rodgers not backing away from shutdown threat

WASHINGTON — More tough talk from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers today.

The House Republican Conference chairwoman disputed any suggestion the GOP was engaging in irresponsible threats by acknowledging its willingness to shut down the government over federal spending policies. Instead, she said it’s President Barack Obama’s position that should be seen as troubling.

“He said it would be irresponsible and absurd to shut down,” McMorris Rodgers said in a phone interview. “I would say that it’s irresponsible and absurd for the president to want another blank check.”

McMorris Rodgers hinted over the weekend a shutdown might be needed to force Obama to consider cuts to federal programs. She said Tuesday no one in Washington wants to see that happen, but “we need to get serious about cutting spending, and the president says we don't have a spending problem.”

The congresswoman said she hadn't seen the president's news conference Monday, in which he said he would not permit House Republicans to charge a “ransom” in refusing to raise debt ceiling in an attempt to address spending cuts.

But McMorris Rodgers, who represents Spokane and much of Eastern Washington, said the time has come to address America's mounting debt.

“What got us to this point is too much spending by both parties,” McMorris Rodgers said. “But especially in recent years we've seen record deficits, and we need to be rolling back Obama's spending increases.”

The Treasury Department reported a federal deficit of $1.1 trillion in fiscal 2012, the fourth straight year with a deficit higher than $1 trillion. However, the deficit shrunk $207 billion, or roughly 16 percent, from the year prior, thanks in part to higher corporate tax receipts and decreased spending as a share of GDP.

Get blog updates by email

About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

Latest comments »

Read all the posts from recent conversations on Spin Control.

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here