AUGUSTA – “What happened was, for18 days, they were going to see who blinks.”
1991…the last time state government in Maine was shut down.
“The sad news is, for 18 days, people suffered. And I mean seriously suffered. Home care stops. Payment for home care. All these things that people don’t realize will be of service,” said Senator Bill Diamond, who was Secretary of State in 1991.
The road block then was workers comp.
Fast forward 26 years, just days away from the deadline to create a new state budget, and some fear history will repeat itself.
“I think maybe it’s a little more serious now because we have a lot more contention at the national level and at the state level even. So with that added to the mix I think this is even more serious,” said Diamond.
The dark cloud hanging over the state house is nothing compared to the storm that’s happening inside. Still no state budget, no agreements in sight. And state agencies are left wondering what’s going to happen if the government does shut down.
“Unemployment services, people who might need help with public assistance, sometimes insurance information would not be available to folks, it could be quite profound,” said Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.
Those concerns, in addition to state employees not seeing a paycheck…
“Out of say 435 positions, we might insist on hanging on to fewer than half a dozen through a shutdown period. That’s pay that’s lost. They don’t get their paycheck after the state comes back into operation,” said Dunlap.
And the possible closure of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Maine Department of Transportation, and state parks leading into the Fourth of July weekend.
“Well I don’t think it’s going to be so much of a trickle as it will be a tsunami. Everything is going to happen at once. And I think people may be caught by surprise. It’s like, ‘Well, yeah, the government shut down but there’s not even a gate on that park.’ Well they may put a gate up. And it may say, ‘No access allowed, government shut down,’” said Dunlap.
Right now, Secretary of State Dunlap and other legislators are still hopeful they will be able to create a budget before the government is forced to shut down.
We reached out to several state agencies – many of whom said they remain optimistic despite being warned by Governor LePage to prepare for the worst.