Government shutdown looms large in Virginia

Government shutdown looms large in Virginia

By Kenric Ward | Virginia Bureau

RICHMOND — As many as 57,000Virginians could be furloughed from their federal jobs if Congress does not pass a spending bill by midnight, state officials said Monday.

A layoff of one-third of the state’s 172,000 federal workers would hit the commonwealth’s bottom line, said Gov. Bob McDonnell, who predicted an immediate drop in sales-tax revenue and income-tax withholding.

“This is an abdication of the federal government’s responsibility. But we are as prepared as we can be,” the governor said, noting that state revenues are running 3.5 percent higher than projections.

State Secretary of Finance Ric Brown said “discretionary” federal spending would be first on the chopping block. Initial targets range from child-development grants to weatherization programs.

But Brown cautioned that even workers in “essential” federal jobs, including the military, could feel the impact of a shutdown because “payroll operations also are discretionary.”

McDonnell blasted what he called President Barack Obama’s “reckless fiscal policies,” saying the White House “has not engaged Republicans in any serious discussions about entitlement reform.”

The GOP governor also had harsh words for Republican lawmakers who are using the spending showdown to try to halt Obamacare on Capitol Hill.

“Republicans have to realize that there is no way Obamacare will be defunded. Ultimately, Obamacare will fall under its own weight. Congress’ job is to keep the trains running, even if they’re not running on time,” McDonnell said.

“A pox on both houses,” he concluded.

On Thursday, McDonnell leads a delegation to New York to discuss Virginia’s bond rating, which is currently AAA. Moody’s Investments has the commonwealth on a “watch list” due to the state’s relatively high concentration of defense-sector jobs, which could be vulnerable under sequestration.

Kenric Ward is a national reporter and Virginia Bureau Chief for Watchdog. Contact him at or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward