While Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republicans in the state legislature fight over funding for road repairs across the state, the standoff could result in 48,000 unpaid government employees in Michigan. Hillsdale County is prepared for the potential blow.
Michigan’s fiscal budget ends at midnight Sept. 30. If Whitmer and the legislators don’t reach an agreement by Oct. 1, the state government will go into a shutdown, leaving many state employees unpaid. Only departments deemed “essential” will continue to operate.
Hillsdale County Road Commission Managing Director John Sanders said if there is a shutdown it “won’t affect us at all.”
“We don’t have any current jobs with the state going, other than the Michigan Transportation Fund, and that should still come through,” Sanders said.
Sanders explained that when he heard about Whitmer’s plan in February to increase the gas tax by 45 cents in order to pay for road repairs, he knew there would be issues passing the budget this year.
“They’re talking about the road budgets,” Sanders said with a chuckle. “There are big differences in the views about that.”
To prepare, the Hillsdale County Road Commission made sure all of its federal jobs that required state funding were funded by June, which is early. Budgets for these jobs are normally arranged between June and October.
“We tried to get that done early because we thought that this might happen,” Sanders said.
The last government shutdown in Michigan came under former Democrat Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2009 and lasted only two hours.
“This isn’t the first time that they’ve threatened a government shutdown,” Sanders said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it completely shut down before. I know they’ve had certain areas shut down before, but not a complete shutdown.”
Branch Hillsdale Health Department Representative Rebecca Burns said the shutdown would not affect the department immediately, though if it lasts long enough it might affect funding.
“We’re not state employees, so if it started to affect us, it would be a decision we would have to make at the local level,” Burns said.
Burns said she does not know how the health department would handle not receiving its funding.
The Hillsdale Board of Public Utilities will also remain unaffected by a potential government shutdown, according to an employee at BPU.
As Oct. 1 gets closer, however, lawmakers remain hopeful.
Michigan State House Speaker Lee Chatfield told WoodTV “the budget will get done whether the governor agrees with it or not.”
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said all the smaller budgets — a total of 15 or 16 — will pass on Tuesday, though the budget total will be less than Whitmer requested.