Sequestration will hurt our state too

We’ve been hearing a lot about how sequestration is going to hurt states with big military facilities. Washington State will also suffer under the axe if congress and the president don’t come up with some kind of deal – something more permanent this time we hope – to put an end to these automatic cuts.

For Washington State there’s a lot to be concerned about. According to the White House, impacts will affect Middle Class Families, jobs and economic security. These include approximately $11.6 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 160 teacher and aide jobs at risk statewide. In addition, about 11,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 50 fewer schools would receive funding. Washington will also lose around $11.25 million in funds for about 140 teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities. Those teachers and aides represent a big part of the employment in rural communities like Oroville and Tonasket.

Across the state that might just seem bad, but cuts for our rural schools in Tonasket and Oroville always seem to be magnified as school boards already struggle with tight budgets. So much so that Tonasket still hasn’t been able to meet the board’s goal of returning to a full school day. More cuts won’t help.

Perhaps one of the biggest impacts will be to public health. The White House estimates that Washington will lose approximately $642,000 to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infections diseases, natural disasters and biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological events.

In this week’s issue reporter Brent Baker writes specifically about the affect the sequester will have on our already struggling local hospital district. According to a recent financial report to the board, the across the federal budget cuts that began at the first of the month mean the district is looking at a 2 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements. That, plus a 4.8 percent drop in Medicaid reimbursements and a nearly 1 percent increase in interest on all county warrants, really hurts the district’s bottom line. An additional 1 percent increase on nearly $2 million in warrants won’t go unnoticed.

Mental health, an issue that has gotten a lot of attention because of the recent mass shootings, will be cut and up to 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children could go untreated. This will most likely lead to increased hospitalizations, involvement in the criminal justice system and homelessness for these individuals, according to the report.

Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution in the state will lose about $271,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement and crime victim and witness initiatives.

Being so near the Canadian border, another issue hits close to home, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would not be able to maintain current staffing levels of border patrol agents and CBP officers as mandated by Congress.

The paper doesn’t break it down into just the impact to Washington State, but CBP would have to reduce its work hours by the equivalent of over 5,000 border patrol agents and the equivalent of over 2,750 CBP officers. Funding and staffing reductions would increase wait times at airports, weaken security between land ports of entry, limit CBP’s ability to collect revenue owed to the federal government and slow screening and entry for those traveling into the U.S.

There’s a lot more that’s going to be cut and a lot in areas that will impact us personally or someone we know. Military Readiness, Veterans Services, the Forest Service, BLM, Work Study Jobs, Head Start, Protection for Clean Air and Water, Job Search Assistance and Training, Child Care, Vaccines for Children, STOP Violence Against Women Program, Nutritional Assistance for Seniors, Small Business programs, food safety, FBI and law enforcement, aviation safety and security and emergency responders, just to name a few, are all looking at deep reductions in funding.

Our families, jobs and economic security shouldn’t be part of a political game of chicken. We need real leadership in the other Washington to end the sequestration and to look at cuts and revenues that are less harmful and more helpful to our situation.