The picture spoke a thousand words: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his family were frolicking and sunning themselves on an otherwise empty beach at Island Beach State Park. The sandy shore was closed to the public because a budget impasse in 2017 had shut down the government. The stalemate threatened thousands of state residents’ July 4th plans that year.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, legislators in Washington state were embroiled in a charged political budget battle over rural water rights. The lawmakers couldn’t agree on how to fix the problem of who had the right to dig new wells. The impasse lasted a nasty six months, but few people outside the state even heard about the freeze on spending it caused.
That’s because while New Jersey’s budget standoff was immediately felt by all state residents, Washington’s battle merely held up the state’s capital budget. While capital budgets are incredibly important for job growth and a state’s economy, in most places holding one hostage doesn’t cause a government shutdown. Hitting the pause button on spending to build roadways and school buildings doesn’t have the same impact as closing a public beach on a hot summer day.