Local governments, schools and military bases are bracing for the impacts of sequestration. We explore how the series of automatic cuts will impact eastern North Carolina.
The series of automatic cuts to government spending called sequestration will total more than a trillion dollars in savings over the next 10 years. The expenses of those savings is now beginning to ripple through our area, as L.C. Morris explains.
Government agencies are now figuring out how they will begin to cut a total of $85 billion dollars from now through Oct. 1, to comply with the mandated ‘50-50 split’ in cuts between defense and domestic discretionary spending.
“I am concerned that as we move forward that we are going to put ourselves in a situation where we cannot control the cuts that would be forthcoming.”
Republican Congressman Walter B. Jones represents the 3rd Congressional district, which spans eastern North Carolina from the Outer Banks down to Onslow County. Jones is strongly opposed to ideas laid out in the "Sequestration Order for Fiscal Year 2013”.
“I believe in flexibility. I would feel better about this sequestration if every agency had the authority to have more flexibility as to what programs would be cut and what programs would not be cut .“
North Carolina will lose $25.4 million dollars in funding for primary and secondary education, and an additional $16.8 million dollars for children with disabilities. Also a major impact will be felt on area military bases, as operations statewide will incur massive cutbacks and furloughs. Funding for the Army would be cut by $136 million dollars. Air Force Operations would be cut by 5 million dollars. And according to a White House press release the Navy would see the cancelation of aircraft depot maintenance at Cherry point.
“The military has been prepared for quite a few months of the possibility of sequestration. And I know I had been to Cherry Point and spoken with the base commander and also visited the depot and got a briefing as to what their concerns might be if this country went into sequestration. It is one of those situation, quite frankly, that we’ll probably get a handle on what is going to happen as we move into April, but again nationally, not just eastern North Carolina, the military, they have been preparing for this.”
In the process of sequestration approximately 22,000 civilian NC Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by $117.5 million dollars. Nat Fayh is the Director of Public Affairs for Marine Corp Base, Camp Lejeune and Marine Corp Installations East. Fayh says department heads at multiple levels are seeking a smooth transition.
“We have received notifications from both the Secretary of the Navy and the Commandant to prepare for potential furlough programs being implemented. When it will happen? Likely around mid to late April, if it were to happen they would receive a 30 day notification so that they could get themselves prepared.”
The Commandant has laid out a blueprint.
“The combat readiness of our forces and taking care of our Marines on the forward edge of our nation’s security, those in Afghanistan and especially those who are preparing to go. And that really what impact our installations because we hold the responsibility of training those Marines”.
As furloughs loom, Camp Lejeune is pushing forward.
“Do an internal audit, make a careful evaluation and determine where expenditures can be reduced or slowed to ensure sufficient funding for the entire fiscal year. We have to keep our Commandant’s priority top on the list which is ensuring the combat readiness of our operation forces. Everything else is second to that.”
At Cherry Point air station, furloughs hang in the balance for the Fleet Readiness Center. Specifics now are unknown.
While the military takes its hit, surrounding areas will be impacted as well. Jones County Manager Franky Howard says military presence is a major player in household incomes in Jones County, as citizens commute back and forth to Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point. Howard is awaiting final numbers from Washington, to see how sequestration will affect his county’s budget.
“We haven’t had clear understanding, yet, of what the local impact is going to be to our budget, but we do receive federal pass through dollars, for certain programs for the Department of Social Services and our Senior center for the Aging program. We are expecting an impact in those programs.”
Jones County Superintendent Michael T. Bracy is keeping a watchful eye on programs to be downsized or eliminated especially those affecting public schools. Ellis Williford, the Wilson county manager, says their primary concern to keep funded is health and social services.
“and that primarily be entitlement funds, like food stamps or Medicaid, plus any pass through monies such as WIC or foster care or daycare fund. We won’t know until it goes to the state and the state advises us how much we we’ll be sequestered by the state or how much they will absorb and not pass the cuts along to us. So for the next several weeks, we’re waiting to see how we will be notified and what the effects will be.”
With the average state unemployment at 9.7%, some eastern North Carolina counties are struggling with almost double the rate. Edgecombe County’s unemployment rate is a whopping 15%. With no military presence in the rural area, County Manager Lorenzo Carmen, says, he’s not quite sure what impact the sequester will have on his county.
“there are lot of unknowns that are in there. We have contracts, agreements, funding approval from the state and federal governments and we have not been notified that any of those things need to be changed or modified. So it’s kind of like borrowing trouble trying to figure out what it is going to mean to us at the end of the day.”
Also playing out in sequester, Medicare changes. According to the NC Hospital Association, federal cuts in Medicare reimbursements will cost North Carolina’s health care systems $1.3 billion over the next decade.
April 1st is when the big picture will play out on smaller, more local stages. Congressman Walter B. Jones says the problem with sequestration is the across the board cuts are disproportionately focused on the military.
“They were suppose to come out with a plan to reduce the debt and the deficit of our country. In that legislation was the word sequestration and if these 12 people could not come out with a legislative plan to reduce government spending then we would go into automatic sequestration.”
Congressman G. K Butterfield, this week, sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration urging to sequestration at the Kinston Regional Jetport and the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern. If the FAA Contract Tower program is canceled, the towers would be unstaffed, meaning no air traffic controllers. For a list of programs affected by sequestration log on to publicradioeast.org. I’m L.C. Morris.
For a list of programs affected by sequestration, click here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/sequester-factsheets/North-Carolina.pdf