A series of federal budget cuts, more commonly known as the "sequester,’ will automatically kick in on tomorrow; these cuts are the result of the "fiscal cliff" crisis last year.
While the focus in the media will likely be the political blame game between Congress and the president, state and local governments will have to look past the politics and examine what the impact of the sequester will actually be.
Is the sequester the right approach to cutting spending? Everyone has their own opinion, but I thought it might be helpful to look at some of the actual cuts we will be facing in Pennsylvania come March 1. These numbers reflect the cuts for 2013 only—the number obviously gets larger if the cuts stay in effect longer.
- Pennsylvania will lose approximately $26.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education, 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. In addition, Pennsylvania will lose approximately $21.4 million for about 260 teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities.
- Around 3,160 fewer low-income students in Pennsylvania would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 2,290 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.
- Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 2,300 children in Pennsylvania.
- Pennsylvania would lose about $5.7 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Pennsylvania could lose another $1,448,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
- Pennsylvania will lose about $509,000 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.
- Approximately 26,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $150.1 million in total. In addition, Army base operation funding would be cut by about $7 million in Pennsylvania.
- Pennsylvania will lose about $866,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement—meaning around 36,860 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.
- In Pennsylvania around 5,280 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B because of reduced funding for vaccinations in the amount of about $361,000.
- As many as 1,800 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to childcare.
- Pennsylvania would lose approximately $849,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.
- Through cuts to the STOP Violence Against Women Program, Pennsylvania could lose up to $271,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 1,000 fewer victims being served.
- Pennsylvania will lose approximately $1,213,000 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, Pennsylvania will lose about $2,930,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 3,500 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And Pennsylvania’s health departments will lose about $639,000 resulting in around 16,000 fewer HIV tests.
These are just some of the state-level cuts—there are many more cuts at the federal level, specifically in defense spending.
How will these cuts filter down to state and local governments as they set their budgets for the coming year? Will Americans feel the pain of these cuts enough to demand a more reasoned approach to deficit reduction? Is Washington capable of stopping the Blame Game long enough to govern responsibly for a change? As March 1 looms, it’s looking more and more like we’re about to find out.