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Hillsdale County pre­pared for potential gov­ernment shutdown. Julia Mullins | Col­legian

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.