Sequestration Looms over Nation

Ethan Price, Features Editor

On March 1, President Obama met with congressional leaders to work on a plan for the national budget and prevent the sequester, which would effect an $85 billion cut of federal programs. Both Republicans and Democrats are in agreement that the sequester cuts put in place by the Budget Control Act are not what the country needs. Yet, their past disagreements have brought them to a stalemate. If set in motion, how will these cuts affect the people of Arizona and how will it affect the growth of the economy?
The sequestration is designed to cut government spending in the event that there is no definite agreement on the national budget. This means that many government-funded businesses and groups will have to make heavy cutbacks. In anticipation of the sequester, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released hundreds of detained illegal aliens over the weekend of the February 23 and 24, saying that they would not be able to hold many of the current prisoners in their jails with the cuts put in place. The White House has provided a prediction of how the cuts will affect each state. This includes a prediction of how it will affect the state and an overview of how it will affect the country as a whole.

In Arizona some of the cuts include the following:

Education: Our ability to teach our kids the skills they’ll need for the jobs of the future would be put at risk. 70,000 young children would lose access to Head Start, 10,000 teacher jobs would be put at risk, and funding for up to 7,200 special education teachers, aides, and staff could be cut.
Cuts to small business: Small businesses create two-thirds of all new jobs in America. Instead of helping small businesses expand and hire, the automatic cuts would reduce loan guarantees to small businesses by up to approximately $900 million.
Child Care: Up to 500 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.
Vaccines for Children: In Arizona around 2,570 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases including measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $176,000.
Public Health: Arizona will lose approximately $611,000 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, Arizona will lose about $1.9 million in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 4,500 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the Arizona State Department of Health Services will lose about $186,000 resulting in around 4,600 fewer HIV tests.

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Some people have been commenting on the seemingly slow approach of Congress to reach a consensus on the national budget, saying that because they are exempt, they feel no sense of urgency. Whether their actions were intendedly negligent is debatable, but it is true that most members of Congress are unaffected by the Sequester. Within section 104 of the Budget Control Act, it states that the Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 shall not apply to the Congressional Budget Office. The Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 created a series of deficit targets designed to balance the federal budget. If these are not met, automatic budget cuts,  or sequestration, will take place.

The meeting held on March 1 yielded little to no progress on the formation of a budget. The full effect of the sequestration cuts won’t go into effect until March 27, and at that point the full effect of the cuts will be more evident.