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Section A: General News


Teetering on the edge of ‘fiscal cliff II’




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Wilson County News
February 27, 2013 | 1,092 views | Post a comment

In today’s tough economy, everyone has to learn to live on a budget. But what happens when the nation’s government cannot live within its means and continues to increase the federal deficit? As of Feb. 22, the outstanding public debt stood at more than $16.5 trillion; it has increased an average of $3.84 billion per day since September 2007. In 2011, the U.S. Congress faced this challenge and was unable to agree on a solution. Instead, the Budget Control Act of 2011 -- including sequestration -- was approved, and the nation heads for a second “fiscal cliff” March 1. The nation’s leaders continue to argue in Washington over expenditures. Without accord, the government may be forced to employ “sequestration” -- mandatory spending “cuts” -- to reduce spending. See “What is sequestration?” (below) for more.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and representative of Texas District 28 -- including 90 percent of Wilson County -- took time to address sequestration Feb. 22, to outline for Wilson County News readers what could happen if these fiscal cuts are mandated.

Wilson County News: Congressman Cuellar, do you feel a deal will be made in time to avoid the government cuts proposed by March 1?

Cuellar: As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I understand that cuts need to be made in order to reduce our debt; however, Congress needs to put their differences aside and work together in a bipartisan manner to avoid any arbitrary cuts that might go into effect by the sequester.

Unfortunately, Congress tends to work crisis by crisis; therefore I remain hopeful that a deal can be reached.

WCN: If the cuts go into effect, how will Texas District 28 (or even Texas in general) be affected?

Cuellar: It is estimated that if sequestration happens, more than $85 billion in additional cuts will be made. Sequestration would mean 540,000 fewer doses of vaccines against diseases such as the flu, hepatitis, and measles. Additionally, community health centers will serve 900,000 fewer patients as a result of these cuts.

Agencies that provide law enforcement, maritime, and border security, including first responders, will also see a reduction of resources and staff.

If the sequester happens, U.S. Customs and Border Protection may need to reduce more than 7,000 officer and agents at the facilities and inspection sites, which has a great impact in my district.

In Texas alone, grants for special education could see a cut of $50.15 million affecting more than 20,000 students. Head Start programs will get a $28.6 million cut in funding, and grants to local educational agencies will be reduced by $71 million.

WCN: How severe will the ag industry be hit if sequestration becomes law? At present, two of the issues being touted by the ag industry are cuts within the new Farm Bill and reduced inspectors at the nation’s slaughter plants. (See related articles, page 3D.)

Cuellar: After the White House and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack suggested that the automatic budget cuts, known as the sequester, could force the government to furlough all federal meat inspectors, the food industry is arguing that such a move would violate the government’s legal obligation to keep inspectors at work.

I encourage the people to call their representatives and urge them to take action and avoid any additional cuts due to sequestration. I am committed to work with both sides of the aisle to keep programs that are essential to our students, seniors, small-business owners, and middle class.

For more on this issue, see page 8A.

What is sequestration?

“Sequestration became law as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, and Congress’ failure to enact a $1.2 trillion balanced deficit reduction plan.

“The law directed a bipartisan Congressional Committee to identify an additional $1.2 trillion in budgetary savings over 10 years. The failure of the so-called ‘super committee’ to come to an agreement on a deficit reduction plan triggered a ‘sequester.’ To sequester means to set apart or to take something away until a debt has been repaid. ...

“In addition to sequestration, the Budget Control Act established limits or caps on overall discretionary spending over the next 10 years, resulting in $1 trillion in additional budget cuts from current spending levels spread across defense and nondefense programs.

“The fiscal cliff deal, H.R. 8, known as the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, altered the timing of the scheduled across-the-board budget cuts, or sequestration. Originally scheduled to impact federal spending January 2, 2013, the sequester is now scheduled to begin March 1, 2013.”

Source: National Association of Elementary School Principals -- Help Stop Sequestration

Contact list

Contact your elected representatives:

•U.S. President Barack Obama, Comments: 202-456-1111; TTY/TTD: 202-456-6213; Switchboard: 202-456-1414

•U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, 202-224-2934

•U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, 202-224-5922

•U.S. Rep. District 15 Rubén Hinojosa, 202-225-2531 or fax 202-225-5688

•U.S. Rep. District 28 Henry Cuellar, 202-225-1640, 1-877-780-0028, or fax 202-225-1641

•Other U.S. representatives: dial the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask for your representative.
 

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