Sequestration: Is Saucon Valley Concerned About It?
Unless Congress takes action by March 1, a number of budget cuts called the sequestration will take effect. Things such as recently-approved Superstorm Sandy aid are at risk.
Are you concerned about a looming series of automatic budget cuts called the sequestration?
According to reader responses to a question posted via social media, some of you are, at least to a degree.
"It feels like I'm watching a reality show and the season/series finale will be like the season finale to 'Lost,'" wrote Saucon Valley resident Tina Olson-Wilkins on Hellertown Patch's Facebook wall.
And Hellertown resident Allan Bach said the current debate is symptomatic of a larger unresolved issue, which he identified as "a government run by greed and popularity."
Meant to reduce federal spending
The budget cuts that have legislators--and some constituents--worked up would come as a result of "sequestration"--a mechanism to reduce federal spending across the board.
President Obama has asked Congress to pass a short-term package to postpone the March 1 deadline. However, Republicans are pushing back, threatening to allow sequestration if tax reforms aren’t included in a deal.
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-17th District) said Monday he is calling on the House Republican leadership "to take action this week on a balanced plan to avert these damaging and mindless spending cuts."
“To date, Senate and House Democrats have offered fair, balanced plans to avert these damaging cuts. These proposals are built on responsible spending cuts, increased revenues, and growth with jobs. Yet Republicans have refused to work toward compromise on a plan to reduce the deficit because they refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes," Cartwright said.
Republicans are floating a plan to force the same amount of cuts but let the Obama administration decide where to make the cuts. Two Lehigh Valley lawmakers--U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-15th District) and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey--told the Morning Call they might be OK with that option.
Travel, education could be impacted
In Pennsylvania, the cuts could potentially affect everything from airport security to Head Start to public school funding.
For example, according to a state-specific report released by the White House, Pennsylvania could lose approximately $26 million in education funding, "putting around 360 teacher and aide jobs at risk."
"In addition, about 29,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 90 fewer schools would receive funding," the White House report said.
And Lehigh Valley International Airport could lose its air traffic control midnight shift as a result of cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to LVIA Executive Director Charles R. Everett Jr.
Passengers could experience delays getting through security if federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers are furloughed.
Other potential impacts include:
- Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley would lose about $125,000 of the $2.5 million the agency receives from federal sources. This cut would result in about 20 fewer homes being weatherized and would cripple the agency's efforts to save families from losing their homes to foreclosure.
- Head Start in the Lehigh Valley could see a cut of up to 8 percent. That could involve as many as 100 children losing places in Head Start as well as a decrease in personnel--10 teachers and assistant teachers and home visitors, for example, according to Community Services for Children, based in Allentown.
Local response is mixed
When asked about the sequestration in a request for feedback, reader Rick Marshall said on Hellertown Patch's Facebook page that he places blame for the looming crisis on the president.
Marshall wrote in a comment that those who voted for Obama should "deal with the consequences" of the sequestration, if it comes to pass.
However, referring to Congress as well as the president, Olson-Wilkins said "we voted for all of them."
"Pointing fingers, conspiracy theories, and other general bratty behavior has never gotten anything but a good time-out. Possibly, this is the solution," she wrote.
Commented Bach: "This is a scare tactic by an out of control government. How can the U.S. be in debt over 16 trillion dollars and yet this poor example of elected officials tells us we will have a problem on March 1?"
And reader Antonio Pereira tried to frame the debate by putting the numbers in perspective.
"Eighty-five billion (dollars) sounds like a lot, until you compare it to the rest of the federal budget," he wrote. "Imagine having (a) $35,000 household budget, then having to reduce that by $850, or about $70 a month."
What are your thoughts on the potential impact of the cuts, both locally and statewide? Let us know by posting your comments below and voting in the poll.