How Sequestration's Automatic Budget Cuts Could Hurt on Local Level
Cities and towns across the country are battening down the hatches, preparing for austerity measures that the budget cuts in sequestration would require if it goes into effect Friday.
The White House previewed what some of those effects might be at the National Governors' Association winter meeting on Sunday and Monday. President Obama called on governors to help him devise a deal with Congress to avert implementation of the sequester.
The automatic budget cuts would deplete states' capacity in several areas, including education, defense and transportation.
Here is a roundup of what ABC affiliates are reporting on the sequester. Click to jump:
ABC affiliate station WVEC-TV reports:
Three Republican congressmen - Rep. Rob Wittman (R-1st D), Rep. Scott Rigell (R-2nd D.) and Rep. Randy Forbes (R-4th D.) - talked Monday to a packed house about sequestration's effects on Hampton Roads and the state.
Rigell told the crowd: "Even at this late hour, there are alternatives … we're fighting."
He said the deadline hasn't arrived and already Hampton Roads is feeling the effects of the impasse. … A frustrated businessman got loud applause when he suggested, "Congress should forfeit their pay until we have a budget."
Forbes announced he'd introduced a bill (H.R.773) to remove the Department of Defense from sequestration and reduce the total size of the sequester by that amount.
WVEC's Dave Cassidy reported Friday that the defense industry in that area is already feeling the effects of the sequester, "including the delayed overhaul of USS Abraham Lincoln at Newport News Shipbuilding and warn notices going out to more than 1,600 workers at BAE Systems shipyard in Norfolk."
ABC station WTVD's Sheyenne Rodriguez reports:
Among the possible cuts we could see starting Friday are furloughs for airport screeners at checkpoints and also air traffic controllers. That would have a direct impact on travelers at Raleigh Durham International Airport.
It could mean fewer flights and longer wait times.
"With everything that's been going on lately through the years, you're going to need the TSA, you're going to need the security. That's the last thing that we need to cut," said traveler John Jackson of Pennsylvania.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood didn't mince words with reporters on the issue.
"Likely close more than 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations per year," he explained.
RDU will likely avoid that scenario. An RDU spokesperson explained it had about $188,000 flight operations last year.
Still, travelers are worried the gridlock that will likely first be felt at major airports in cities like Chicago and New York, which could affect travel in and out of RDU.
ABC affiliate WRTV's Drew Smith reports:
More than 4,000 Indiana federal government workers could see a 20 percent pay cut soon.
People who work for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, or DFAS, in Marion County are at the mercy of what happens in Washington, D.C., with the looming budget cuts set to kick in March 1.
Elaine Ashcraft, who has put in 26 years with the federal government, said she is preparing for the worst.
"It's pretty devastating," Ashcraft said. "I've already started thinking about and I put in some applications for part time."
Ashcraft works in Lawrence with DFAS, the payroll and accounting arm of the Department of Defense.
Sunlen Miller reports for ABC affiliate WJLA:
Without agreement from Congress, the automatic spending cuts, as brokered by Congress as part of the Budget Control Act, will kick in this Friday. The government has warned that as a small part of the cuts there could be a furlough of meat inspection workers, causing a potential nationwide shutdown of meat and poultry plants.
Fewer inspectors mean fewer products. Fewer products drive meat prices right up, a concern to local butchers. … With fewer inspectors available it could also open up the potential that the detection of food-born illnesses could be compromised, the USDA has said.
For some consumers that was not acceptable.
"I think it's ridiculous," Kelly Haney of Silver Spring said while food shopping today. "It is very important to me and my family that we have real healthy beef as well as all other food and I really, really don't like the idea of the government doing anything to hamper that."
But it's not just meat that stands to be affected; vegetables could be at risk too.
The Agriculture Department has also warned that if the cuts go into effect there will be less money available for pest and disease prevention, which potentially could hit farmers hard with more outbreaks to their crops.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. - Sequester Puts Program for Students With Disabilities in Jeopardy
ABC affiliate WJLA reports:
Debbie Sahlin wanted to help families with disabled children, so she founded the Lollipop Kids Foundation, which refurbishes and then donates wheelchairs and other equipment to families in need.
She also knows first-hand the challenges of having a child with special needs. Just getting her 18-year-old son Ryan off the school bus takes extra effort, as do many other aspects of her daily life that most people take for granted.
Ryan goes to public school in Montgomery County, which makes the thought of any more cuts in education funding tough for Sahlin. It's even tougher when nearly half of the sequestration cuts in education would affect students with disabilities - $24 million worth of cuts in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.
Unless Congress acts by Friday, $85 billion total in cuts are set to take effect from March to September.
"If they cut any more, I honestly don't know how they're going to serve the children who are already in the school system," Sahlin said.
ABC affiliate WJBF's Courtney Elledge reports:
The sequester is a cut that would affect every public school in the state of Georgia. Federally funded programs at state schools would see a slash starting this Friday if a compromise isn't met. The cut could affect teacher's aids and education for children with disabilities.
Evans Middle School Principal Michael Johnson said: "Teacher's aids are extremely important, they provide a vital service to our school… Hopefully we won't get to that point."
Johnson says there's a meeting every Thursday with staff members to plan for the upcoming weeks - the past few weeks have focused on the possible sequester.
"I wouldn't necessarily say I'm warning them, but I am making them aware of the situation, and where we're at, " Johnson said.
Johnson says the county, tax dollars, and school board members do a great job of providing funds for necessary programs - he's just worried the federal government won't do the same, cutting Title 1 and special education funding.
ABC affiliate KEYT's John Palminteri reports:
The Oxnard and Camarillo airport towers are on a list of towers nationwide that could close if federal budget cuts go through next week.
The Federal Aviation Administration has sent a letter to all tower operators who could be ordered to change operations quickly if officials in Washington don't come up with new funding. The two Ventura County airports are on the list.