As of this date, the Legislature has not approved a state operating budget for the 2017-2019 Biennium. In light of the possibility of not having a budget by July 1, employers may have questions about DRS’ contingency plans for a potential shutdown of state government services.
While DRS is not a General Fund agency, almost all of the money it expends (80 percent) is explicitly authorized by the Legislature. That makes DRS an “appropriated agency,” which means nearly all DRS operations are subject to the requirements of a shutdown.
DRS has worked with the Office of Financial Management to identify which services would be maintained if there is no budget on July 1. As in 2015, we have confirmed (with guidance and approval from the Attorney General’s Office) that DRS has a legal responsibility to ensure the continuous movement and accuracy of retirement-related contributions, the associated account data and benefit payments.
This means DRS would initially operate in a very limited capacity if a shutdown were to occur. At the outset, only a few DRS team members would be here to process retirement contributions, data transmittal reports and disbursements. If the shutdown were to extend beyond the first full week in July, we would bring in additional team members to limit any overpayments in the July pension run, to ensure the July COLAs are accurately processed and to process July retirements.
We want to be clear that determinations about which services would continue is not a matter of choice, or about whether one service or program is considered more important than another. These decisions are purely a matter of legal obligation.
We have posted information on the DRS website to address questions that may arise from members and retirees about the impacts of limited services at DRS. That information can be found here.
We want to echo Gov. Jay Inslee in emphasizing that state agencies have an obligation to plan for a shutdown even though it is a worst-case scenario. This is a difficult process for all of us, especially because of the uncertainty it creates for our customers and partners. Even so, it is our responsibility to have a plan in place in the event the unlikely comes to pass.
We continue to believe there will be a budget agreement before the end of the month. In the meantime, DRS will maintain its dedication to providing the very best in service for our customers and partners.
If you have any questions regarding this notice, please reply to this email or contact Employer Support Services at 360-664-7200, option 2, or 800-547-6657, option 6, option 2.