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Harkin Statement on White House Sequestration Report

February 25, 2013

Harkin Statement on White House Sequestration Report

Report illustrates need to avert cuts; find balanced approach to budgeting

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement on the White House report unveiled last night on the impact of a series of automatic cuts—called the sequester—that will take effect March 1st unless Congress takes action.  The cuts threaten hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs, and cut vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness, businesses, and servicemen and women.  Harkin chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. 
 
“For weeks, President Obama has urged Congressional Republicans to join him in negotiating a balanced package of spending cuts and revenue increases to head off the sequester.  I have been a strong supporter of such a balanced approach,” said Harkin. “Regrettably, we have run up against the same old response from Congressional Republicans: obstructionism, and an adamant refusal to compromise.  They reject the very idea of a balanced approach, insisting that all deficit reduction must come exclusively from cuts to spending and investment.  Republicans would rather allow our economy to lose jobs than close a tax loophole that pays companies to move American jobs to foreign countries or have multimillionaires pay their fair share.  They would rather risk jolting the economy back into recession than close a tax loophole that allows hedge fund managers making hundreds of millions a year to pay a lower tax rate than many middle class families.  
 
“I am deeply concerned about the arbitrary cuts to programs that undergird the middle class in this country – everything from education to medical research to food safety,” he continued.  “I support the Senate proposal to avoid sequestration, which would pay for these automatic cuts through the end of December with a combination of spending cuts and measures that close tax loopholes and subsidies, and that ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.” 
 
Examples of how the automatic cuts will impact Iowa this year, according to the White House report and information obtained by the Harkin office:
 
Teachers and Schools: Iowa will lose approximately $6.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 90 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 7,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 50 fewer schools would receive funding.
  • Education for Children with Disabilities: In addition, Iowa will lose approximately $5.8 million in funds for about 70 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.
Work-Study Jobs: Around 2,370 fewer low income students in Iowa would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 1,020 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college. 
 
Head Start: Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 500 children in Iowa, reducing access to critical early education. 
 
Protections for Clean Air and Clean Water: Iowa would lose about $2.4 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Iowa could lose another $661,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
 
National examples of how the automatic cuts will impact our country this year, according to the White House report and information obtained by the Harkin office:
 
Aviation safety: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would be forced to undergo a funding cut of more than $600 million. This action would force the FAA to undergo an immediate retrenchment of core functions by reducing operating costs and eliminating or reducing services to various segments of the flying community. A vast majority of FAA’s nearly 47,000 employees would be furloughed for approximately one day per pay period, with a maximum of two days per pay period. The furlough of a large number of air traffic controllers and technicians would require a reduction in air traffic to a level that could be safely managed by the remaining staff, resulting in slower air traffic in major cities and elimination of air traffic control at the Dubuque, Waterloo and Sioux City Airports. 
 
Aviation security: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would reduce its frontline workforce, which would substantially increase passenger wait times at airport security checkpoints.  TSA would need to initiate a hiring freeze for all transportation security officer positions in March, eliminate overtime, and furlough its 50,000 officers for up to seven days.
 
Cuts to food safety: Outbreaks of foodborne illness are a serious threat to families and public health. If sequestration takes effect, up to 2,100 fewer food inspections could occur, putting families at risk and costing billions in lost food production.  Meat Inspectors hours will be cut and if there is not enough meat inspectors, meat packing facilities would close resulting in plant workers losing work, shortages of meat and poultry and higher retail prices for consumers, and closed markets and depressed livestock prices for farmers.    
 
(Note that cutbacks in the federal workforce would not start for about a month, around the end of March.)