As the deadline passed for the nation’s across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, the failure of Democrats and Republicans to strike a deal before March 1 now means $85 billion will be reduced from government programs and federal agencies over the next 10 months, the consequences of which could also be felt locally, though likely not immediately.
Now the argument between the two political parties is just how severely these cuts will affect families, jobs, schools, and other programs that receive federal funding. Many Democrats seem to fear the worst.
“I had hoped to see both parties work together to find a balanced approach of revenue and cuts in order to stop the sequester,” said U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz. “Now that these across-the-board cuts are under way, I will fight on behalf of District One and Arizona to protect our local economies, schools, national parks and tribes… Once again, I urge Congress to work together and swiftly resolve this very serious challenge.”
On the other hand, some Republicans, such as Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, have argued that federal agencies have plenty of flexibility to implement the cuts while avoiding the worst of the purported consequences.
Still, local governments are reporting the cuts will likely result in negative impacts to some families of the northwest area, particularly those who work in the fields of defense or federal government.
“It’s fair to say there won’t be any immediate, direct impacts to Oro Valley, but it’s possible there will be secondary impacts down the road,” said Oro Valley Communications Director Misti Nowak. “For example, the defense cuts, specifically those that target our local military installations, (Davis Monthan, 162nd, Border Patrol), and local contractors (Raytheon) will likely have a secondary impact on the Town since we have many families dependent on those jobs.”
Nowak added that transportation cuts through the Arizona Department of Transportation might also have an affect on Arizona cities and towns, though those impacts are less certain at the time being.
Like Oro Valley, Marana spokesman Rodney Campbell said while the sequester will not effect the town’s budget, those residents contracted with federal entities could be most affected.
U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., echoed that sentiment, expressing his concern over the cuts.
“These cuts will weaken our military, harm our border security, undermine our economic recovery and hurt Southern Arizona families,” Barber said.
Agents will likely face cuts in hours and pay, according to Art Del Cueto, president of the Border Patrol union that represents agents in Arizona.
“With cutting down the hours on the agents, with cutting down the pay, with facing furloughs, that does mean you’ll have less agents working many of these areas, and at the same time you’ll have a lot less security,” he said.
Area school districts will also see cuts as a result of sequestration. According to the National Education Association, several cuts will occur in Arizona, notably grants to local education agencies.
“Amphitheater projects that there will likely be a reduction of one half-million dollars that will take place July 1. We do not get it back,” said Mindy Blake, Director of Community Relations for the Amphitheater School District. “This is definitely going to have a negative impact on our students and district. In terms of whether or not there will be any job cuts, anytime there are reductions like this, we always look for ways to keep it as far away from the classroom or children as possible.”
Marana Unified School District’s Chief Financial Officer Dan Contorno said there is still a lot of uncertainty as to how the district could be affected, but that some federally funded grant programs could be looking at a 7-10 percent reduction from cuts.