Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration says Virginia’s “critical state needs” are still being met during the federal government shutdown, but warned Thursday the shutdown’s real effects on the state won’t be known until revenue data come in weeks from now.
McDonnell chief of staff Martin Kent also said, so far, the state agencies most affected by the shutdown are the Department of Military Affairs, the Department of Labor and Industry and some programs at Norfolk State University and Virginia Tech.
The state has furloughed or reduced hours for about 300 state employees because of the shutdown.
Kent said the state’s situation could change if the shutdown continues, and said McDonnell “remains adamant that leaders of both parties must work together to end this shutdown. The federal government must reopen immediately. The shutdown is unacceptable, and it is having a direct, negative effect on states, businesses and families.”
Next week Congress faces another fight over raising the debt ceiling. On a conference call with reporters, Sen. Mark Warner, D–Va., was incredulous that lawmakers might choose not to raise it, thus risking the country’s reputation internationally.
“The harm that is being done across Virginia and across the country is immeasurable,” Warner said. “We are in uncharted territory. No industrialized nation in the world has come close to putting its international reputation on the line This way we’re doing right now is more irresponsible than anything I’ve seen in my public life or as a former business guy.”
Warner has been involved in efforts to reduce the federal debt and deficit, and said he understands both of those need to be controlled.
But he said the current fight over budget matters and the shutdown are doing long-term damage to government employee morale and to the U.S.’ reputation.
“Governing by crisis in the media is not the way a responsible enterprise operates,” Warner said.
House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R–7th, also expressed urgency in a statement Wednesday, discussing a proposal from House Republicans to negotiate a short-term debt ceiling extension.
“There is very little time left; we cannot waste any more time,” Cantor said. “What we have discussed as a conference is a temporary extension of the debt ceiling in exchange for a real commitment by this president and the Senate majority leader to sit down and talk about the pressing problems that are facing all the American people. And that includes a broad array of issues.”
Also Wednesday, the National Governors Association sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to reach a deal to reopen the government before the shutdown starts to deeply affect state economies.
“The fiscal health of states is inextricably linked to the fiscal stability of the federal government, and while state economies have improved, a failure by our national government to secure a solution to the current budget issues undermines our states’ recovery and endangers the U.S. economy,” the letter said.
It said states are in some cases using their own resources to keep federally funded services open and called on Congress to commit to reimbursing those funds.
“States are not in a position to be the bank for the federal government,” the letter said.
While worries continue about the ability of states to provide crucial services, Virginia Department of Health Officials said last week they have enough money to keep the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program afloat at least through Nov. 1. That program gives food vouchers to pregnant and nursing women and those with children younger than 5.