Sequester explained as deadline looms

The road to sequester and what it means for Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. - There's little hope for a deal to avoid tomorrow's sequester, $85 billion dollars of mandatory across-the-board spending cuts that will go into effect because congressional leaders failed to reach a deal on spending reduction.

The sequester is the result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, otherwise  known as the deal to lift the debt ceiling.  The debt ceiling was raised in exchange for $1.2 trillion dollars in spending cuts, which were to be determined by tomorrow by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, a so-called super committee.

The group failed to reach an agreement, despite the threat of sequestration which was designed to be unpalatable to both parties (Republicans balking at defense cuts, Democrats balking at cuts to education and social programs); that failure automatically launches the massive cuts tomorrow to defense and other departments and agencies.

The White House warns the sequester will cost 700-thousand jobs this year and slow economic growth, which is already slow, by half.   The Obama Administration recently released state-by-state details of the effects of sequestration.

This is what it might mean for Florida:

  • The state could lose $54.5 million for primary and secondary education, putting about 750 teacher and teacher aid jobs at risk.
  • Head start would be eliminated for about 2700 children across the state.
  • About 6200 fewer college students would get financial aid. 1700 fewer would get work study jobs.
  • 31,000 to 41,000 civilian defense workers would be furloughed.
  • Army, Air Force, and Navy operations in Florida would lose about $170 million.
  • The state would also lose about $5.2 million in environmental funding for clean water and air quality.
  • Programs that provide meals to seniors would lose $3.8 million in funds.
  • The FAA says it could be forced to shut the control tower at Orlando Executive Airport, and cut controller hours at Orlando International Airport.

Many Republican leaders have called White House estimates scare tactics.  But the impasse is real.  The two sides simply cannot agree on how to reduce spending and balance the budget.  Republicans insist there will be no more tax hikes on the wealthy, while the White House insists the only way to move the economy forward is with a mix of cuts and revenues. 

One thing both sides agree on: the impact of sequestration will not be immediate.  The effects will play out throughout March, with most of the pain coming toward the end of the month.  All cuts can immediately be reversed if and when Congress reaches a deal.


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