Fed shutdown likely to cause short-term pain, no long-term harm to Prince George’s


FILE: Prince George's County Courthouse in Upper Marlboro. (Jared Soares/For The Washington Post)
September 26, 2013

Been there. Done that. And if necessary, says Prince George’s top budget official, the county will once again find a way to cope with a possible federal government shutdown on Tuesday.

If there is a shutdown, and the county’s nearly 72,000 federal workers don’t get paid, that could cost the county about $270,000 in lost income tax revenue for every day the government is shuttered. The short-term effect on families and workers could be substantial, even if they eventually are paid.

“The impact is on the people,” said Tom Himler, a top aide to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D). “If I don’t get paid for five days, it hurts me.”

Also at risk: the approximately $250 million the county receives annually from the feds for schools, housing and other programs. But Himler is for now optimistic that little long- term harm will come to the county government or its $2.7 billion spending plan.

“The question is whether they at some point pay these people. That is the presumption. But the unknown is whether the federal government is not going to pay people, and not going to pay vendors for eternity. Or whether they will make it up when they reopen the government,” he said.

State officials are painting a grimmer picture, saying a shutdown could cost the state $5 million a day in lost tax revenue.

In Prince George’s, the federal government spends $12 million each work day on county residents for salaries, and spends about $19 million daily on vendors and contractors, Himler said.

Within the county’s borders there are about 27,500 federal jobs, some of them held by county residents, but most, Himler said, by commuters.

For now, Prince George’s officials are monitoring the debate over a shutdown, but not making any contingency plans.

“We think that calmer heads will prevail and they will reach a resolution,” Himler said. “If there is a shutdown fora relatively short period of time, we aren’t doing any contingencies. If they shut down for a long period of time, we will start exploring that.”

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