What you need to know on sequestration - WNCN: News, Weather

What you need to know about sequestration

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Friday marks the day that President Barack Obama must issue an order for sequestration. He will meet with Congressional leaders John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell Friday afternoon to attempt to negotiate a new spending solution. If they do not reach a consensus, he must issue the order by 11:59 p.m. Friday night. 

Here is an explanation of sequestration and what it means to you:

What is sequestration?

Sequestration is a series of automatic cuts to government spending, totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The cuts would be split exactly 50-50 between defense and domestic discretionary spending.

So what does that really mean?

According to data released by the White House, the federal budget for 2013 (approximately $3.8 trillion) will decrease by estimates of $85 billion. Non-defense federal agencies and departments across the board will face budget cuts of around 9 percent, while the Pentagon will face a 13 percent reduction, the White House said.

Why are we in this situation?

 In the 2011 Congressional stand-off about the debt ceiling, the administration formed a "Super Committee" charged with finding $1 trillion in spending reductions. Congress hoped to incentivize a bipartisan agreement by generating automatic, harsh spending cuts (sequestration) that would take place starting in 2013 if the Super Committee failed to reach an agreement. These events occurred after the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission were not implemented, which had included a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan before the debt ceiling crisis. On Nov. 21, 2011, the Super Committee admitted defeat and sequestration became a reality.   

Why do some lawmakers oppose sequestration?

The automatic cuts outlined in sequestration were hastily put together by legislators as a doomsday scenario, a threatening outcome that would compel the administration and Congress to reach a balanced decision. Many fear that the drastic cuts to defense represent a serious threat to national security, and the cuts to discretionary spending could negatively impact the economy and unemployment levels. Furthermore, the agencies and departments have no input on how the spending cuts go into effect; they are implemented across the board.

What do those in favor of sequestration have to say?

According to Fox News, officials are estimating that the cuts from the federal budget for 2013 will total just more than 2 percent of the federal budget. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell compared the 2 percent reduction in federal spending to the 2 percent reduction in many American paychecks given the recent expiration of a payroll tax cut; he implied that if the average American can do it, the government can as well. While many representatives consider the spending cuts less than ideal, they believe they are a necessary step to reduce the staggering national debt.  

What impact will these cuts have on a national scale?

The White House described specific effects of sequestration on a national level, including:

The Pentagon will face a 13 percent cut in its budget, most likely granting leaves of absences to thousands of civilian workers. Cutbacks will also occur in other aspects of the budget, such as the recent decision to not deploy an extra aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has already begun releasing illegal immigrants from local jails in Arizona.

The Transportation Department has indicated FAA cutbacks will most likely lead to delays at the nation's biggest airports. Runways could also potentially close, causing even more delays at these same airports.

Unemployment checks are expected to drop by around 11 percent.

FBI investigations are expected to slow down.

The FDA might have to postpone meat and poultry inspections for up to 15 days, impacting the timely shipping of food by meat plants.

How will sequestration affect us in North Carolina?

The White House described specific effects of sequestration in North Carolina, including:

North Carolina will lose around $25.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education. This threatens around 350 teacher and aide jobs, reduces the number of students served by 38,000, and reduces the number of schools that receive funding by 80. North Carolina would also lose approximately $16.8 million in funds for around 200 teachers, aides and staff who assist children with disabilities.

These cuts would force leaves of absence for approximately 22,000 civilian N. C. Department of Defense employees, reducing gross pay by around $117.5 million. Base operation funding for the army would decrease by around $136 million, funding for Air Force operations would decrease by around $5 million, and aircraft depot maintenance in Cherry Point, N.C., would be canceled.

The 2013 Wings Over Wayne Open House and Air Show scheduled for May 18-19 has already been canceled due to spending prioritization.

North Carolina would lose around $401,000 in Justice Assistance Grants, which support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.

Around 3,550 fewer children in North Carolina would receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza and Hepatitis B.

Research dependent on federal grants will decrease, affecting Research Triangle Park businesses and schools such as N.C. State, Duke, and the University of North Carolina.

North Carolina would lose about $3,606,000 in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality. It could also potentially lose another $1,265,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.

What are North Carolinas senators saying?

Sen. Kay Hagan opposes sequestration and has indicated a willingness to do whatever it takes to reach an agreement before Friday. "I don't think the middle class should keep paying the price when Washington can't compromise or work together," she stated on Tuesday to WWAY-TV.

A statement from Sen. Richard Burr's staff emphasized the necessity of cutting the size and scope for the government, but his preference for more prioritized cuts that would "address real waste, fraud and abuse in federal spending."

Both senators stressed their preference of reaching a compromise before sequestration; the question is, can they do this in time?

How does the public feel about sequestration?

A Gallup poll released Thursday indicates that a majority of Americans (56 percent) believe the nation's economy will suffer this year if the federal budget sequestration scheduled for Friday goes into effect. 30 percent of Americans believe it will not get worse, and 13 percent have no opinion.

The poll additionally explored divides along party lines and found that 64 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of Democrats believe sequestration will make the economy worse. Only 40 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of Democrats say the sequestration should be allowed to happen.

Given this bipartisan uncertainty about sequestration, should Obama issue the order on Friday? Or is sequestration a necessary step in budget reduction? Is a bipartisan compromise on the budget possible, or should America accept a less than perfect solution for the sake of progress?

 

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