Cumberland Times-News

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February 26, 2013

Manchin on sequester: ‘We need a big fix’

State could face cuts to safety, business, veteran, senior programs

CUMBERLAND — Sen. Joe Manchin is hopeful that Congress will come together with a meeting of minds to find a bigger deal to stop across-the-board spending cuts from going into effect Friday.

“We need to come to a common sense approach to fixing things that seem to be continually broken,” said Manchin during a press conference Tuesday. “If nothing is done by the end of the month, there will be hits across the board for every department or agency, whether it makes sense or not. We are trying to work through this. We are talking vigorously on it.”

The sequester can be avoided if Congress passes legislation that undoes the legal requirement in the Budget Control Act of 2011 so that President Barack Obama can sign it before Friday. The BCA was established by a 12-member super committee.

“The super committee failed superbly,” said Manchin during the press conference.

If legislation is not passed, there will be $85 billion in across-the-board cuts, with half from defense and half from nondefense discretionary programs, which will cause cuts to West Virginia safety, business, veteran, senior, children and family programs, according to Manchin.

“The $85 billion in across-the-board cuts this year were intended to be so dangerous and flawed that it would force Congress to act,” said Manchin in a press release.

“West Virginians and all Americans are demanding that we get our financial house in order, but we cannot continue to kick the can down the road with more empty promises of fiscal responsibility. We need a big fix, like the Bowles-Simpson plan that saves $4 trillion over 10 years. We need to start responsibly managing our nation’s spending problems while reducing our debt, not simply taking an ax to essential programs.”

If an agreement is not reached by Friday, there will be close to 9.5 percent cuts to defense, according to Manchin.

“There is a much more rational way of doing this instead of taking a meat cleaver to every program,” said Manchin. “I’m hoping they come to a bargain between now and Friday, but I’m not holding my breath.”

The sequester would lead to a Department of Defense furlough of approximately 2,000 civilian employees in West Virginia alone, reducing total payments by about $9.9 million, according to Manchin’s Mountain State report.

In addition, the Army’s base operation funding would be cut by about $1.4 million.

“Our safety, our commitment to our children and seniors, and our investment in our economic future are all in jeopardy,” said Manchin in the report.

The sequester would cut $2.98 million to Head Start, which would reduce educational access for 415 3- and 4-year-old students, and would potentially cut more than 180 educational jobs, according to the report.

It would also lead to $160,000 in cuts to senior nutrition services, which would mean significant reductions in nutrition programs to seniors in rural areas and nutrition services to seniors through food deliveries like Meals on Wheels, according to the report.

Manchin suggested that the government live under a budget.

“West Virginians live under a budget every day, and it is time that our government follows suit and starts doing the same,” said Manchin in a press release.

“That is the only way we can get out of this fiscal mess once and for all.”

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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