With Ruben Diaz apparently sticking to his threat to withhold support for the emergency spending bills that have been keeping the government in operation for the past two months while the legislature tries to craft an annual budget (Pedro Espada has seemingly backed down), the state is preparing for the possibility of its first-ever government shutdown. While it's certainly possible that such an event could be averted (Republican leader Dean Skelos says he'll deliver some votes for the next emergency bill, on Monday, if it contains "hundreds of millions of dollars in additional Medicaid and human services program cuts"), state agencies are already scrambling to figure out what will happen if the shutdown occurs, and how to keep vital services, like the state police and state prisons, up and running.
As the Times reports:
[A]dministration officials have started huddling with their counterparts at the state comptroller’s office to work through the consequences of a shutdown, warning that if the Legislature fails to approve the next emergency budget bill, due on Monday, the state would face unprecedented chaos.
“We don’t have an answer to many of these questions because we’ve never shut down the government before,” said Robert L. Megna, the state budget director.
Unprecedented chaos? Surely it can't be that bad, right? Actually, maybe worse. Governor Paterson was on the radio today warning of the complete breakdown of society, according to the Daily Politics.
"Eventually the banks aren’t going to pay based on IOUs, and you now have no money to pay your police, you have no money to pay your corrections officers, your firefighters, your emergency health care workers," Paterson said.
On WBEN in Buffalo, Paterson went so far as to warn of runs on banks and financial institutions that have not been seen since the Great Depression.
"You could have anarchy, literally, in the streets when the government shuts down," Paterson said.
We're skeptical that, with an election only a few months away, the Senate would allow itself to give voters such a conspicuous and consequential demonstration of its ineptitude. But just in case, we'll be practicing our maniacal-screaming, eye-gouging, and lighting-things-on-fire skills over the weekend, should the apocalypse materialize.
State budget chief sees 'disastrous' impact if agencies shut down [Buffalo News]
Parties Clash as Albany Edges Closer to Shutdown [NYT]
Gov In Budget Doomsday Mode During AM Radio Blitz » [Daily Politics/NYDN]