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McDonnell wants agency report on shutdown

RICHMOND—Gov. Bob McDonnell said Friday he should have a clearer idea by Monday or Tuesday of how Virginia’s government is affected by the ongoing federal government shutdown.

He had asked state agencies to report to him by Friday on the specific impacts of the shutdown on their operations.

McDonnell had said earlier this week that he does have some tools, including a contingency fund and the ability to authorize loans from state accounts to other state agencies, to help limit the impact of federal dollars that are now drying up as the shutdown, which started Tuesday, continues.

Various state functions rely in part on federal dollars, which aren’t coming in as usual during the shutdown.

So far that hasn’t affected programs like Medicaid or assistance programs like WIC, the Women Infants and Children program that helps with nutritional assistance for young children.

On Friday, Virginia’s Department of Health had posted a notice on its website that it had enough money to keep the WIC program running through Nov. 1.

The website of the federal USDA, which administers WIC, was shut down Friday.

McDonnell had to explain how the state will mitigate the impacts of the shutdown to the national bond rating agencies Thursday, in a meeting in New York that had been scheduled before the shutdown.

That’s an annual meeting at which the governor and leaders of the legislative money committees meet with bond agency officials to explain the state’s finances and encourage them to keep the state’s highly valued AAA bond rating.

Talking to reporters in Richmond Friday, McDonnell said he felt good about how the meeting went and that the bond agency officials seemed to understand the position Virginia is in.

As a neighbor of the federal government in Washington, Virginia has a high concentration of federal workers, contractors and other jobs dependent on the federal government.

While the bond rating agencies haven’t downgraded Virginia’s rating in the past, they said in 2011—while Congress was embroiled in a battle over raising the debt ceiling—that Virginia’s and Maryland’s ratings could both be in jeopardy because of the states’ dependence on the federal government.

McDonnell said he told the agency officials Thursday about the ways in which Virginia has worked to diversify its economy since 2011, placing a greater focus on areas like agriculture and tourism.

McDonnell said he still blames both parties for the shutdown, and reiterated his call for fellow Republicans in Washington to give up their effort to defund the Affordable Care Act as a condition of passing a spending resolution to reopen the government.

McDonnell said he understands and agrees with Republican dislike of the ACA, but that the current fight is pointless.

“Barack Obama is not going to sign a bill to defund Obamacare. To shut down government over a bill that’s already passed and upheld as constitutional is not an effective strategy,” McDonnell said. “They’re there not to make political points, they’re there to solve problems.”

He said the broader problem is that Congress hasn’t been able to agree on a budget for years. McDonnell would like to see a constitutional amendment requiring a federal balanced budget.

“Everybody in Washington knows they can’t persist in this. This is outrageous,” McDonnell said. “You can’t run a government with no budget.”

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028

cdavis@freelancestar.com

 

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