26 February 2013

Spending Cuts of $85B puts $22M in MI School Money at Risk

Story first appeared on The Detroit Free Press -

With $85-billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to go into effect Friday, White House officials on Sunday hiked up the pressure on congressional Republicans, issuing a set of state-by-state reports detailing the damage that would be done.

Nationally, tens of thousands of kids would lose Head Start services, Customs and Border Patrol hours would be cut and mental health funding would be reduced, to name some of the outcomes. In Michigan, 10,000 Defense Department workers would face one-day-a-week furloughs – more than initially believed – and the state would lose $22-million in school funding, putting 300 teacher and aide jobs at risk.

“This is going to have very real impact on people’s lives and people’s communities,” said White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer, who added that he understood the skepticism of some Americans that, with past funding crises averted, that this one was real.

“Are all these things going to go in effect on the first day? No,” he said. But people will feel the result of the cuts which when fully implemented “will be incredibly disruptive to their lives, to their communities.”

The Free Press in Sunday’s editions took a comprehensive look at what the so-called sequester – a Washington word for the process by which $85-billion would be trimmed from federal spending between now and Sept. 30 – noting that reductions could potentially hit defense contractors, teachers, students, shippers, automakers and more. Reductions at the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies could lead to delayed flights and longer security lines; funding for scientific research at local universities could be slashed.

But there still seemed to be little likelihood of a compromise in advance of Friday’s deadline. President Barack Obama continued to call on Republicans to accept an offer to combine some spending cuts with raising taxes on the wealthy by limiting deductions and closing some loopholes. Republicans continue to stand their ground that more spending cuts – not increased tax revenue – was called for.

Republicans have been far from unified in their response to the pending sequester, however. U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Township) has argued that it’s actually too small a cut and that overall spending will continue to increase. And last week, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller (R-Harrison Township) said there are better ways to implement a reduction but that Obama only appears out to “frighten Americans.”

"Republicans in the House have voted - twice - to replace President Obama's sequester with smarter spending cuts," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "The White House needs to spend less time explaining to the press how bad the sequester will be and more time actually working to stop it."

White House officials said while the effects may not be felt immediately, they are real. In Michigan, they could include:

• About $20-million less in education funds that support 240 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.

• Reduced funding that would result in about 4,400 fewer children in the state receiving vaccines for measles, mumps and other diseases.

• A $1.8-million reduction in funds that help provide meals for seniors.

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