This time, it looks like Congress and the White House really might take America -- and Nevada -- over the fiscal cliff. Those pillars of government agreed in the Budget Control Act of 2011 to deliver automatic funding cuts of $1.2 trillion over 10 years if they failed to pass a complete budget, sort of a self-imposed threat to shoot themselves in the foot if they failed to get the job done.
The sequester, as it was dubbed, is just the latest in a series of budget crises conjured up by the federal leaders -- and this one will go into effect March 1 unless Congress moves very quickly to find an escape.
If “the sequester” sounds familiar, you’ve been paying attention. It was first scheduled to go into effect in January, but Congress and President Obama scrambled to forestall the across-the-board hammer and managed to push it back two months.
Unless they pull another rabbit out of their budgetary hat before the end of February, though, both defense and non-defense spending would see significant funding cuts, sharing the pain in a 50-50 split. Everything from airline travel to children’s lunch programs, border security to drug-treatment programs would be affected, with $85.4 billion cut in the first year. Absent congressional action, the cuts would continue every year for the next decade.
The economic impact could be significant. Some economists have even warned that sucking that much money out of the economy could restart the Great Recession from which we are painfully recovering. Nevada would lose more than 10,400 jobs in just the first year of the sequestration, according to a widely cited study by a George Mason University researcher. According to a report released last summer by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health, Human Services and Education, Nevada programs will lose tens of millions, and programs helping low-income populations in schools and health care will be hit especially hard, just in the first year of the cuts.
Education support for Nevada schools could lose an estimated $18.5 million, affecting thousands of teachers and students. Simply because of the large population served in Clark County, most of the cuts would affect the Las Vegas area.
Among expected impacts: 133 education jobs would be lost simply through the reduction in education grants, and some 15,000 students would lose services. More than 1,600 teachers would lose funding for professional development.
Health and Human Services would have to reduce support for Nevada programs by about $7.7 million, and impacts would include: 77 Head Start jobs lost and 371 fewer children served for the preschool program; the loss of maternal and child health-care assistance to almost 14,000 Nevadans; loss of subsidized vaccinations for almost 1,800 children.
More than 500 domestic-violence victims would lose services, and almost 870 people would lose access to substance-abuse treatment programs. An unspecified number of seniors would lose meals delivered to their homes.
Social services and education won’t be the only losers. The Defense Department would face a 9 percent across-the-board cut. Nellis and Creech Air Force bases, civilian employees and defense contractors would all lose jobs and funding.
For the Common Defense, a national nonprofit working to minimize cuts to defense spending under sequestration and deficit-control measures, estimates that Nevada defense contractors, large and small, could lose $239 million annually. For the Common Defense estimates at least 4,575 defense-related jobs lost in Nevada based on sequestration.
(CityLife will take a larger look at these cuts in our Feb. 28 print edition.)