Sequester cuts likely to remain in place

This week, for the first time since the end of the government shutdown, budget talks between Democrats and Republicans began. The aim of the negotiations is to avert another government shutdown when temporary funding runs out January 15 and to raise the federal debt ceiling before the nation reaches its borrowing limit sometime in February.

Another budgetary consideration looms large, however: spending cuts mandated by the sequester. The cuts were designed to hit popular programs in an inconvenient way to force a budget deal (that never materialized). The military, federally-funded scientific research and other popular programs were hit hard.

Although the sequester never had the catastrophic effects on the economy that some politicians predicted — the economy has continued to grow — it has adversely affected the military and scientific research. Recently, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said that only two of the military’s 42 combat brigades are fully trained and ready. And sequester cuts have damaged innovative research programs with the potential to gin up billions of dollars of economic activity for businesses across the U.S.

Although conservatives and liberals may argue about the relative effects of sequester cuts on the economy, there’s a strong consensus that these clumsy cuts are not the best way to go about reducing spending. But no matter how much both Republicans and Democrats dislike the sequester, they equally oppose the other side’s solution to replace it.

California

So what does that mean for California?

A White House report released earlier this year, meant to drum up opposition to the sequester, outlined some of the impacts on California:

In California, the cuts would trim $87.6 million in federal funding for primary and secondary education, and $62.9 million from special education, the Obama Administration’s report said.

About 10,000 college work-study jobs would be eliminated, along with spots for 8,200 children in the public preschool programs Head Start and Early Head Start, the White House report said.

In addition, 64,000 civilian defense employees would be furloughed for some period of time, and army base operations would lose about $54 million in California, the report said.

About $3 million in funds for job support for the unemployed would also be affected.

Although creative accounting softened the blow, many of the impacts described did ultimately affect Californians, such as students who attend schools on military bases.

But there’s more. NASA would likely delay some of its missions:

NASA was able to largely avoid serious consequences from the first phase of sequestration budget cuts, but the next round poses a serious threat to the nation’s space program, according to congressional lawmakers and agency officials.

Those cuts could delay missions and imperil programs that already face tighter budgets and fiscal uncertainty.

“Sequestration will slit the throat of NASA,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat who once rode on the space shuttle and represents workers at Kennedy Space Center. “It’ll cut the heart out of the manned space program.”

The cuts would also slow research being conducted at Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, which is located near Lancaster.

Those hoping for some kind of a resolution shouldn’t be optimistic: It seems that the sequester is here to stay.

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SequesterAdam O'NealBill NelsonRay Odierno

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