The clouds of a government shutdown are once again rolling over Washington this fall, an ominous sign for Virginia.
A 2019 study from the personal finance website Wallet Hub finds that Virginia is among the top 10 states most affected by a federal shutdown. Federal employees working in national security roles, in particular, are hit the hardest, as many are forced to work without pay.
Earlier this fall, Congress passed a short-term agreement to fund the government at last year’s spending levels, but the money runs out just before Thanksgiving, potentially setting up another budget battle at the end of the year.
If lawmakers can’t reach a budget agreement, “few, if any, states would be hit harder than Virginia,” said Sen. Mark Warner, at the start of the 35-day shutdown from Dec. 2018 to Jan. 2019, the longest in U.S. history.
Kaine was later able to pass a law guaranteeing backpay for affected workers, but it doesn’t extend to the thousands of federal contractors spread across the Commonwealth, who depend on federal agencies to stay open to get their paychecks.
He currently has legislation in the works to blunt the economic impact of a shutdown for those workers, too.
Eastern Virginia Congressman Rob Wittman (R-Va.) has another proposal aimed at ending government shutdowns: No Budget, No Pay. Wittman’s bill would freeze pay for all federal lawmakers in the event of a shutdown.
Perhaps no member of Virginia’s congressional delegation has been more critical of federal shutdowns than freshman Democrat Rep. Abigail Spanbegerer. In February, she introduced the Stop STUPIDITY (Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage In The Coming Years) Act, a more complex version of Wittman’s proposal that would automatically renew funding at the same levels as the previous year except for the legislative branch and the Executive Office of the President. She believes the exclusions for the White House and lawmakers would incentivize Congress and the President to work together to fix policy disagreements, without harming the federal workforce, national security, or the economy.
More recently, in September, the House of Representatives passed Rep. Jennifer Wexton’s (D-Va.) bill that would require federal regulators to issue regulatory guidance for financial institutions within 24-hours of a government shutdown. The bill is designed to encourage lenders to work with borrowers affected by a shutdown to help protect consumers and small businesses from the financial hardships that accompany a missed paycheck.