Raleigh, N.C. — Top North Carolina officials are already making plans to deal with another partial federal shutdown in January if Congress fails to meet a self-imposed deadline for a deal later this week, state Budget Director Art Pope told the General Assembly's Health and Human Services Oversight Committee Tuesday.
"We are all hopeful there will not be a repeat of the October shutdown, but it is absolutely proper and prudent for the General Assembly and the governor to plan for a potential shutdown in the future," Pope said.
A shutdown in October was short-lived but painful for the state, particularly for agencies in the Department of Health and Human Service agencies, which rely heavily on federal finding. That shutdown disrupted processing for food stamps and Work First claims.
Among the reasons for the disruption at the state level, Pope said, was a lack of direction from the federal government. In particular, at the time of the October shutdown, there were few federal guarantees about what kind of state spending would be reimbursed once the federal government fully reopened.
Since then, Pope said, Congress has put that direction into law. However, the governor does not have the authority to spend money absent a budget resolution or a budget emergency. Federal shutdowns don't fit under the budget emergency law.
"A federal government shutdown is not an accidental event," Pope said. To allow for maximum flexibility in state spending, he said, the legislature may need to act.
"If we have a January shutdown that goes into February, then it may be necessary to have a special session," he said.
Reuters and other news outlets have reported this week that congressional lawmakers believe they will reach a budget deal by the end of the week.