LIMA — With automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts to take effect March 1, local politicians and Ohio congressmen are divided on sequester legislation.
During the remainder of this fiscal year, through Sept. 30, the cuts would slash by $85 billion how much federal agencies are allowed to spend, effecting everything from health care to national security. If the legislation stays in place over the next 10 years, the automatic spending cuts would would slash $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
Lima Mayor David Berger openly spoke out against the sequester, arguing it’s already had a “chilling effect” at the tank-building Joint Systems Manufacturing Center. With the cuts looming, Berger said, the Army is holding back on spending. What had been rolling 30-days layoffs at the facility may become permanent.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH, supports budget reduction but said he believes the broad-based cuts are not discriminatory enough.
“I think sequester is a bad idea because it does not allow us to prioritize spending. I think instead of using the meat cleaver, we ought to be using the scalpel to get at the spending that ought to be cut,” Portman said.
He said military and national security cuts were too harsh. Those cuts constitute half of the $85 billion.
“The amount of cuts in defense is not balanced because it’s 50 percent of the sequester cuts coming out of about 16 percent of the budget. The Department of Defense is not being effected, because military personnel are not affected. But I think that’s too much to ask of the military, given the fact that we still do live in a dangerous world, and I think this will affect our national security. It doesn’t give them time to plan,” Portman said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, expressed similar sentiments.
“We want to achieve the savings. I wish it was replaced how it was done with our national security,” Jordan said.
However, he said, the sequester is a step in the right direction to decrease the federal deficit.
“It’s only 2.4 percent of the overall federal budget,” Jordan said of the $85 billion in cuts. “Lots of families, lots of business owners have had to sequester a lot more than 2.4 percent of their budgets, so this is a good first step on the savings part. I just wish the president would be willing to work with us and not have it come out of national defense.”
“Washington does not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green. “It’s important to folks to remember that we have a $16.5 trillion deficit out there, and then we’re also looking at having debt payments of interest this year of $224 billion, and going down the road 10 years, we’ll be at $860 billion… We’re in very deep, deep trouble.”
On the other side of the aisle, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said while making cuts is necessary, the sequester likely would cause additional problems.
“Although we have to make cuts, they must be done in a responsible way that does not threaten our national security or disproportionately burden those who serve our nation—whether it’s in uniform or in the classroom,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “I am supportive of the plan that includes a mix of spending cuts and increased revenue that would allow our first responders and teachers to keep their jobs; would not result in slashes to Medicare; and will maintain the strength of our national defense and military preparedness.”
In Ohio, programs such as Head Start, work-study jobs and military effectiveness would be affected by cuts.
U.S. Rep. Bob Latta