Threat to shut down state government isn't working

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The game of political chicken being played in Olympia (agree on a budget before July 1 or much of state government will shut down) might not be as frightening to the public as the governor or legislative leaders might think — or hope.

Most people, outside of those working for the state, don’t believe a shutdown of state government will have much or any affect on their lives one way or the other. And they are probably right.

The shutdown, if it occurs, would be to nonessential services. Prisons will remain open (and the cell doors will remain closed), the roads will remain open and will continue to be monitored by the State Patrol.

Still, all sides in the budget debate are putting on a good show. This morning thousands of state employees received notifications they will be temporarily laid off if there is no budget deal within a week.

Earlier Gov. Jay Insle‘s budget office released details on how it would likely respond to a shutdown of state government if a budget isn’t approved. The list is detailed, going from office to office in alphabetical order, describing whether the shutdown is complete, partial or not at all. The offices facing complete shutdown — determined to be nonessential — are too numerous to list, although let’s look at a few in the letter “A” category such as the Accountancy Board, Arts Commission and Asian Pacific American Affairs.

Yes, there are also more serious consequences such as a partial shutdown at the Department of Corrections, but most are designed to have as little impact as possible — and to be temporary.

So if the budget isn’t approved by July 1, the great showdown of government (much like The Great and Powerful Oz) will likely be a nonevent.

It won’t give either Democrats or Republicans political cover to push their agenda, it will simply be seen by the public as an empty threat.

Some will even wonder if it might be wise to permanently close these nonessential offices.

It’s a thought lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, should be concerned about.

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