Will taxpayers foot the bill for government shutdown?

WASHINGTON – Have you thought about the folly of the federal government shutdown? Consider that, in the end, federal workers could be paid for work they didn’t do and taxpayers could be stuck paying for services they didn’t get.

Federal workers got back pay in all past government shutdowns — both those exempt employees who have been required to stay on the job and those non-exempt workers sent home on furlough.

“Seems ridiculous to pay people for work they are not doing and it’s not the workers’ fault, it’s Congress’ fault and it’s time for Congress to do their job,” says Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-profit government watchdog group.

The bill to provide back pay to all federal workers has been passed in the House but not yet taken up in the Senate. The White House has indicated that the president would be willing to sign such a bill.

While Ellis said he believes it smacks of unfairness to taxpayers, he says there’s also an element of unfairness in it to those workers required to stay on the job.

“People who are working and may be doing even more work than they would otherwise because their colleagues are furloughed and they’re just going to get their regular pay,” Ellis points out.

“It is pretty preposterous when you look at it and it just shows how ridiculous this situation is,” Ellis adds.

Also, hard-working taxpayers are losing government services during the shutdown, but they will wind up paying for them in the end, Ellis says.

“Taxpayers have a right to be angry and have every right to be angry about this situation,” Ellis says.

Ellis says his group is also concerned that the prospect of providing back pay may actually extend the shutdown by making it seem less painful.

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