LITTLE ROCK — The number of Arkansans furloughed because of the federal government shutdown is expected to climb to 1,460 next week, Gov. Mike Beebe said Friday.
State Budget Administrator Brandon Sharp had said Thursday that as many as 4,000 state employees who are paid with federal funds could be affected by the shutdown if it continues into next week. Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample clarified Friday that a number of employees would be affected in ways other than outfight furloughs, such as having to work fewer hours or work without pay with the expectation of being reimbursed later.
Some 673 state employees were furloughed this week.
Beebe told reporters that in certain critical areas the state is providing state funds to keep people on the job “for our own protection.”
“The National Guard comes to mind,” he said. “We don’t have enough to keep them all on. Most of them are going to be furloughed. But we can keep about 70 essential folks on to provide security for installations.”
Beebe said that “we were this close to shutting down the Fort Smith commercial airport,” but the state came up with a plan to use reserve money to maintain the National Guard’s fire protection service at the airport — a service that is required by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We were running a real close risk of telling Monday American Airlines and everybody else, ‘Quit going to Fort Smith.’ Imagine that,” he said. “But I don’t know how long we can continue to do that.”
Beebe said he has made an offer to the federal government to provide state employees to keep some national parks and bodies of water open, at no cost to the federal government.
“We get this response back that, ‘Well, if you’ll pay our federal people the full amount, we’ll let you do that,’” he said. “That’s nuts. It’s crazy. If you get the feeling that I’m frustrated with what those people up there are doing, you are absolutely right.”
The governor stressed that the only employees being furloughed are those paid with federal funds.
“It’s Washington that has caused this mess, and it is a mess,” he said.