Federal shutdown has shuttered some, but not all, Vail Valley federal agencies
EAGLE COUNTY — Because tragedy and idiocy tend to come in threes and travel in packs, our bickering Beltway brain trust thrust us into the throes of a third federal government shutdown of 2018.
By the time you read this it will be 2019, and as New Year’s Eve Champagne corks popped, the federal government was still shut down — sort of.
If you’re “essential,” you’re working.
The military is working because it’s considered essential.
Congress also considers itself essential.
But what about agencies in our region?
HAATS will still rescue you
If you do something silly or have an accident and a helicopter crew from the Colorado National Guard’s High Altitude Aviation Training Site at the Eagle County Regional Airport has to rescue you, they can and will.
“We’re still funded. We’re not impacted by this federal shutdown,” Staff Sgt. Joseph Vonnida said.
The Colorado National Guard’s missions are funded under the state budget.
The equipment is federally owned, but the personnel are funded by the state, and would likely ask for pardon instead of permission if they needed to fly.
“There is no type of lack of funding situation that would keep us from flying those missions,” Vonnida said.
As always, whether the folks from HAATS fly depends on the situation, but they’re never grounded because they don’t have the money.
Smokey’s not essential?
Minturn’s Holy Cross Ranger District of the White River National Forest is a different story. Monday was an epic powder day and we live near Vail. Reporters generally don’t have much luck getting people on the phone on powder days.
We called the Minturn Forest Service office.
The voicemail explained that the office is on furlough due to the “lapse in federal government funding.”
“Please leave a voicemail,” the message says.
Then the voicemail explained, “We don’t have access to voicemail, due to current lapse in funding.”
Local Forest Service officials look forward to returning calls once funding has been restored, the voicemail said. In fact, it said that at least six times with no opportunity to leave a message.
Forest Service for the trees
You know what that means?
That means you can speak with the national Forest Service folks in Washington where there are no forests. Yes, the Forest Service is working where there are no forests, but not where there are forests. The Holy Cross District, through which the Vail Valley runs, is 707,000 acres. District Ranger Aaron Mayville is the only staff member on call. We called Byron James, the assistant director of Issue Management & Media Relations in forest-free Washington, D.C. He wasn’t available. We left him a message.
If you’re brewing a new beer, the government shutdown is delaying its launch.
The government agency that approves new beer recipes and labels is furloughed. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is a little-known arm of the Treasury Department, the agency that collects money through the IRS.
The bureau is part of the federal government that’s furloughed. It’s still collecting taxes, but won’t process applications for new labels, recipes or breweries.
Why are we here?
Since 1974 and the Congressional Budget Act, Congress has hit its deadlines for passing appropriations measures only four times: in fiscal 1977, 1989, 1995 and 1997.
Here’s how the process works:
The president submits a budget proposal, but the House and Senate are supposed to pass a binding budget resolution. They usually don’t.
As a result, we’ve seen three federal government shutdowns in this year alone: in January, February and December.
Instead, writes Drew DeSilver, a senior writer with the Pew Research Center, Congress buys itself more time by relying on continuing resolutions. Those resolutions typically extend previous funding levels but only for existing programs; they’ve lasted as little as one day and as long as the rest of the fiscal year.
Since fiscal 1997, the general trend has been for the appropriations process to drag out longer and longer: The time between the start of each fiscal year and the date that year’s final spending bill became law has grown from 56 days in fiscal 1998 to 216 days in fiscal 2017.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and email@example.com.