How the Government Shutdown in Maine Affected My Vacation

31 Jul 2017 Karina S. Henkel

Andrew works for the State of Maine. It’s a great job with interesting people. To work with and for politicians, though, has its own challenges. Politicians are their own class of people and the dynamics of politics influence not only its employees’ work life, but also their private life.

As in every country on this earth, the US and its states have budgets that need to be negotiated. Different political parties, committees, politicians, and lobbyists all influence the process. This list is not complete at all. I only have a very rough knowledge about politics, especially American politics, but Andrew is a wonderful source for me to get explanations about how things work in the US. He understands what is going on politically, but especially what is going on in Maine.

Every two years, Maine has to decide on a new budget that goes into effect as of July 1st. If the politicians are not able, for whatever reason, to decide upon a new budget by July 1st, the government officially has no budget to operate with, and therefore has no money to spend. The government has to shut down and stop all operations until the politicians have agreed upon a new budget. That means that most state employees are sent home without pay and all state offices are closed. Health care providers, school employees, contractors, and most state employees get some unpaid days off, but that also means that people can’t register their cars, get drivers licenses, or deal with any state agency.

This has also happened to the federal government, which means that all federal agencies have to shut down their operations because there is officially no budget in force that would pay anyone’s salary.

This does not happen very often. The last time that this happened in Maine was 1991. But now it happened again in 2017. Luckily it only lasted a few days. But unfortunately it fell exactly in the time that Andrew had booked and planned his trip with the twins to Germany and France. Their flight to Germany was supposed to leave on July 1st, supposedly the first day of the new budget era.

But the week before that day, it became clearer and clearer that all involved parties were not able to agree upon a new budget. There was going to be a government shutdown and Andrew had to face the possibility that he couldn’t go with his boys to Europe because his position demanded that he stays in his job (in this case without payment) when there is a government crisis.

Luckily he worked something out with his boss and he went on his trip anyway. And luckily the government shutdown lasted only three days. But for almost two weeks, we were all very devastated because it all looked as if we had to cancel that trip.

The picture for this article is copyright (c) 2012 Nicolas Raymond and made available under an Attribution  3.0-Unported License