Sequestration may have lasting effects

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Government > Funding cuts would be all over the map

The White House released a report last week detailing the possible effects of sequestration including how it would affect New Mexico.

President Barack Obama will meet Friday with the top leaders in the House and Senate to discuss what to do about automatic cuts to the federal budget, White House and congressional leaders said.

The meeting is set to take place hours after the $85 billion in across-the-board cuts will have officially kicked in. This suggests both sides are operating under the assumption a deal won’t be reached to avert the cuts ahead of the March 1 deadline.

The top congressional Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the top Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, will attend the White House meeting.

McConnell said the meeting will focus on ways to reduce government spending, but indicated he’s not backing down on his opposition to any new tax increases.

The cuts that are scheduled to kick-in Friday include:
• Teachers and schools: New Mexico will lose approximately $6.1 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 80 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 12,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 30 fewer schools would receive funding.
• Education for children with disabilities: In addition, New Mexico will lose approximately $4.4 million in funds for about 50 teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities.
• Work-study jobs: Around 160 fewer low-income students in New Mexico would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 50 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.
• Head start: Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 500 children in New Mexico, reducing access to critical early education.
• Protections for clean air and clean water: New Mexico would lose about $1,260,000 in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, New Mexico could lose another $877,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
• Military readiness: In New Mexico, approximately 7,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $42 million in total.
• Army: Base operation funding would be cut by about $33 million in New Mexico.
• Air Force: Funding for Air Force operations in New Mexico would be cut by about $10 million.
• Law enforcement and public safety funds for crime prevention and prosecution: New Mexico will lose about $135,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.
• Job search assistance to help those in New Mexico find employment and training: New Mexico will lose about $257,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 9,620 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.
• Child care: Up to 400 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.
• Vaccines for children: In New Mexico around 790 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $54,000.
• Public health: New Mexico will lose approximately $197,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological events. In addition, New Mexico will lose about $450,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 300 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the New Mexico State Department of Health will lose about $84,000 resulting in around 2,100 fewer HIV tests.
• STOP Violence Against Women program: New Mexico could lose up to $40,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 200 fewer victims being served.
• Nutrition assistance for seniors: New Mexico would lose approximately $401,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.

In addition, approximately 7,000 civilian Department of Defense employees across the state would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by approximately $42 million. The threat of sequestration has already impacted the national labs in New Mexico, as Los Alamos National Laboratory took steps in 2012 to control spending in the face of budget uncertainties this year. Additional furloughs at the lab remain a possibility if the sequester occurs.

Lab spokesman Fred DeSousa said Wednesday it will be business as usual Friday at LANL.

Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) spoke on the House floor Wednesday to urge action to prevent sequestration and the resulting devastating cuts that will harm the economy and result in job losses. With the House set to recess on Friday, the same day the sequester’s cuts are set to begin, Luján urged the House Republican leadership to stay in session until action is taken to stop the arbitrary cuts.

“As we talk about the impact to each and every one of our districts with what sequestration will bring with job losses, let’s stand together and stop this,” Luján said on the House floor. “Let’s ask our leadership to allow us to vote on a simple couple of words: stop sequestration. Let’s prevent it from happening.”