No Agreement Reached Yet to Avert Shutdown

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage and Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

There’s only a few hours left for Congress to settle disagreement over the 2011 budget or the federal government will shut down at midnight. Earlier today Senator Mark Begich confirmed that both sides in the budget dispute had agreed on a figure for the cuts.

But, Begich said, a small, diehard group of House Republicans is holding up forward progress on the budget bill by attaching riders to the deal.  Begich described the amendments as “social engineering.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski is also frustrated by the process getting bogged down by hard line issues. She says it’s important to remember, this is the budget for this fiscal year and it’s already April.

If the government does indeed shutdown, Senator Begich could only surmise what the effects will be for Alaska.

FHA loans and IRS returns will stop.

The state’s 17,000 federal employees will be furloughed for the most part, and that in itself will be a blow to a struggling economy.

Begich said that the details of military pay are still being worked out.

Senator Lisa Murkowski echoed the concern over continuity for military pay. She says the proposal the House has advanced does include the full budget for defense, but she says even if that plan gets held up, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson has a free standing measure to ensure military pay is not halted.

But Murkowski says she’s also very worried about the federal employees who live paycheck to paycheck. She says she knows they are stressed about what will happen on Monday and those folks do not see a shut down as a holiday.

The Post Office will continue to function, as it is paid for through revenue streams. Social Security checks and veterans benefits should continue to flow. As should Medicare, Medicaid and other assistance programs.

It’s difficult to know what a shutdown would cost, but OMB estimates from the shut down in 1995 placed the direct cost to government at nearly one and a half billion in addition to hundreds of millions in lost revenue for national parks and local governments.

Individual federal department will post information about the furloughs online.

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