Federal workers around Austin brace for shutdown

Federal workers around Austin brace for shutdown

Federal workers around Austin brace for shutdown

Print
Email
|

by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on September 30, 2013 at 5:55 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 30 at 9:58 PM

AUSTIN -- It's been 17 years since the last government shutdown. 

The two shutdowns between November 1995 and January 1996 lasted a combined total of 28 days, and began with a battle between Democratic President Bill Clinton and a Republican-led U.S. Congress under House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA).
 
"The government is partially shutting down because Congress has failed to pass the straightforward legislation necessary to keep the government running without imposing sharp hikes in Medicare premiums and deep cuts in education and the environment," Clinton told media on November 14, 1995.
 
Like the last time, a shutdown would see the LBJ Presidential Library and museum closed to visitors beginning Tuesday, with about 60 staff members forced to stay home. The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park and ranch would be closed as well. A total of 42 people would be sent home, leaving a seven person crew of law enforcement officers, maintenance personnel and ranch hands left to tend the property and livestock.
 
Federal courts in the Western District of Texas have enough funding to continue business as usual for two weeks following a shutdown. After that, staffing would likely be reduced with the exception of judges, and pending cases would likely take precedence over new cases. 
 
At Camp Mabry, public affairs staff answered inquiries regarding the effects of a government shutdown with a breakdown of what to expect. Below are the questions KVUE answered, followed by the response from Camp Mabry:
 
1. How, if it all, might operations or personnel at Camp Mabry be affected in the event of a government shutdown? 
 
A: In the event of a government shutdown we do expect operations, maintenance and critical training to be impacted and will have a disproportionate impact on the operations of the Texas Military Forces compared to its active duty counterparts. Camp Mabry's running trail will remain available to the public and guests can still enter post with valid identification to visit the state-funded and managed Texas Military Forces Museum.
 
2. If some staff would be furloughed, approximately how many and in what types of positions? 
 
A: In the event of the government shutdown, mandatory furloughs will take place. The fulltime staff of the Texas Military Forces is comprised of two primary categories of employees. The first is the civil service technician, who will be sent home in an unpaid leave status until directed to report for duty. The second category is Active Guard Reserve (AGR) personnel who will continue to report for duty in a delayed paid status through the duration of the government shutdown. At this time exact numbers of those who would be furloughed are not available. 
 
3.Any information would be helpful.
 
A: Despite the possibility of a federal government shutdown and federally mandated furloughs, we will continue to perform our core mission of providing professional, mission-ready forces for both the State of Texas and the Nation.
 
It is important to note there is still enough time for Congress to prevent a lapse in appropriations, and we hope that Congress will work with the administration to complete a continuing resolution or a full fiscal year 2014 appropriations prior to Oct. 1st.
 
Already dealing with issues stemming from the federal budget sequestration that went into effect in March of this year, the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) declined to comment on what a government shutdown could mean for its employees in the Austin area.
 
"The parking lot is going to be empty," said Eddie Walker, president of the Austin chapter of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU Ch. 247). Walker estimates more than 3,000 Austin IRS workers could be affected. While most simple returns and refunds would continue to be processed by automated systems, Walker says the walk-in center on Rundberg Lane would be closed and appointments canceled. 
 
"The IRS brings in 93 percent of what the government makes," said Walker. "So it's not a good idea if you want to help the budget to send us home."
 
When it comes to services and benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Deputy Director Jessica Jacobsen of the VA's Dallas Regional Office of Public Affairs sent KVUE a detailed statement regarding the shutdown's effects:
 
"VA strongly believes that a lapse in appropriations should not occur. There is still enough time for Congress to act and fund critical Government operations."
 
"Regarding health care -- It’s important to know that the Veterans Health Administration, the branch of VA that operates our VA medical centers, including the Audie Murphy VA Medical Center in San Antonio, has advance appropriations for fiscal year 2014.  This means that our hospitals, clinics and other health services will remain open."
 
"Regarding benefits payments administered by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA): Claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation programs will continue through late October. In the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs will be suspended when funding runs out."
 
"In the event of a prolonged shutdown, VA will continue to review and update its plan in conjunction with the applicable legal requirements and circumstances. More information is available and will be updated at www.va.gov."
 
The last shutdown cost an estimated $1.4 billion. How much another could cost could depend in large part upon how long it lasts. For now, it's a waiting game.

Governor Perry issued a letter Monday directing state agencies in the event of a potential government shutdown.

“In anticipation of the federal government’s looming shutdown, I directed state agencies that will be affected by the suspension of federal funding to develop contingency plans to prioritize essential functions and use existing budget transfer authority to allow these services to Texans to continue until Washington gridlock ends.”
 

Print
Email
|
 
News Video
More Video