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How The Federal Government’s Partial Shutdown Affects Maine

U.S. Navy
An aerial view of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, in Kittery, where up to half the workforce could be furloughed Monday if the federal government shutdown continues.

Because the partial shutdown of the federal government has started on a weekend, the effect on the Maine is minimal — but that starts to grow on Monday.

“This just should not have happened,” Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said in an interview with Maine Public Radio. “This is a failure to do what we are supposed to do.”

Collins said she has reconvened the Common Sense Coalition, made up of moderate senators from both parties to try to craft a compromise. Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine is also a member of that group.

“We should stay in session all day and all night and all of tomorrow if need be to reach a compromise to reopen government,” Collins said.

On Monday, the state will start seeing immediate consequences of the failure to reach agreement on a federal spending bill, either short term or for the rest of the year.

As many as half of the civilian workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard will be furloughed. About 500 Maine National Guard dual-status technicians will be furloughed.

The longer the shutdown, the greater the effect on state government. Agencies like the departments of Labor and Environmental Protection fund most of their workers with federal funds. In the 2013 federal government shutdown, the state issued layoff notices to hundreds of workers. The state has contingency plans to do that again during this shutdown.

Federal contractors like Bath Iron Works will also feel the effect the longer the shutdown lasts. And if primary contractors like BIW fail to get expected payments from the federal government, there will be a ripple effect on subcontractors.

“As a result of the 2013 shutdown, Maine residents with mental or physical disabilities were not able to sign up for Social Security disability benefits, the Veterans Benefits Administration’s office at Togus was closed and small businesses were not able to access loan and assistance programs,” Collins said, calling on leaders of both parties to work out a compromise to end the shutdown.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District voted against the continuing resolution. She said Congress should pass a budget for the remainder of the budget year and not continue the practice of short-term spending bills.

“We should be able to work this out,” she said in an interview with Maine Public Radio. “Once the politics becomes who is polling better and whose fault is it and the White House puts out their Twitter posts, it makes it harder and harder to get a deal.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District voted for the short-term continuing resolution. He said it is irresponsible to shut down the government.

“A government shutdown is simply unacceptable, which is why I voted to keep the government open and am urging my colleagues in the Senate from both sides of the aisle to do the same,” he said.

Poliquin said he will not take his pay during the shutdown and will donate it to the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King voted against the short-term funding plan, saying he has had enough of continuing resolutions.

“Nobody wanted to shut the government down, and we didn’t have to — there was enough middle ground between both sides to reach an agreement if only we’d worked together earlier in the process,” King said in a statement. “Moving forward, I am open to a short-term continuing resolution that allows us to finalize the details of a deal.”

While talks between congressional leaders continue this weekend, there has been no public indication of progress on those negotiations.

This story was originally published Jan. 20, 2018 at 5:14 p.m. ET.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.