The Domino Effect

Government shutdowns have consequences.

We can debate border security and methods to achieve it and we can debate who is to blame and point fingers at President Trump or the Democrats in Congress. But one thing we can’t debate is that the recent shutdown hurt business.

Damage has been done. It is called the domino effect.

  • Congress has not increased the amount of money it authorized to spend from the Highway Trust Fund. That means lawmakers aren’t following the plan for annual increases that they devised in 2015 when they passed FAST Act, which by the way, runs out at the end of the year. Here come those temporary authorizations again.
  • Some state departments of transportation are beginning to curtail planning for new projects while several mass transit systems are scrambling as many rely on federal grants for both operating revenues and capital funding.
  • States can’t access their whole year’s worth of 2019 money from the Highway Trust Fund, as they could in other years. Typically, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) makes that money available at the beginning of the fiscal year the previous October. But the continuing resolution only included authorization for FHWA to distribute about a quarter of the yearly total.
  • Transit agencies basically won’t be able to start applying for grants to fund new construction projects once the shutdown is over. The Federal Transit Administration typically only makes grants available during a fiscal year once it has had five months’ worth of appropriations. So far, in the 2019 fiscal year, it’s had less than three.
  • Federal contractors were among the workers hardest hit by the recent partial government shutdown. Not only did they not get paid during it, they also won’t receive any back pay. 

The question becomes, how often is this going to happen? How many shutdowns will we have to endure with the accompanying disruptions in pay, service and legislative continuity? The economy was humming along and that shutdown did nothing to improve it.

Washington needs to get its act together and work together. Business depends on it.

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