The impact of the impending series of automatic federal spending cuts, popularly known as the sequester, on Indiana became the focus of a White House report released over the weekend by the Obama administration. The report detailed the economic and social fallout the cuts will likely cause in Indiana when it goes into effect Friday.
Everything from Indiana’s military readiness, to education, health programs and social services will be impacted by the $85 billion cuts slated to occur over the course of the next seven months.
Indiana’s military sector is scheduled to receive the deepest cuts. Around 11,000 civilian Hoosier employees of the Defense Department may be furloughed, amounting to what the White House describes a drop in gross income of more than $64 million in total. $1.7 million in funding for Army base operations and $7 million for Air Force operations will also disappear.
Indiana would also lose $3.3 million in funding for the environment and the state would lose more than $800,000 in meal assistance for seniors among many other cuts.
The spending cutbacks will likely have repercussions on the state’s education system as well. The Obama administration says $13.8 million in financing for primary and secondary education is slated to be axed. This would mean a cut in funding for around 50 schools, putting the jobs of approximately 190 teachers at risk and impacting nearly 12,000 Hoosier students.
Paul Woodling, an economics teacher at Northwest High School in Indianapolis, says services designed to aid children with learning disabilities would likely feel the brunt of the spending cut impact at his school.
“I think we’ll see a lot of inclusion teachers leave or possibly be lost, especially the classified—not so much as the certified licensed teachers—but our lay helpers,” Woodling says. “We could lose some of those. We have too few of them right now. I only have one class that is covered. I have students in other classes who need services, but we don’t have enough people. So that could become even tighter with this cut.”
Funding for Indiana’s tax-supported health services may also fall victim to the impending cuts. Penny Caudill, the administrator of the Monroe County Health Department, says while the health department does receive most of its funding via local taxes and fees, a drop in federal money it collects through the state would damage some department programs enjoyed by some 2,000 clients in the area.
“We do receive federal money that passes through the Indiana State Department of Health, and those are the funds that would most directly affect us,” she says. “So that would be in the area of preparedness, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS, and also our Title 10 family planning funding.”
Another potential victim of the government sequester would be anti-violence programs such as the ones at Middle Way House in Bloomington.
Executive Director Toby Strout says federal funding cuts would mean she would have to shut day care, youth programs, and legal services.
“When you get right down to it, it could be that the only thing that remains is emergency shelter,” she says. “Now even that funding is threatened. So are there plans in place? Yes. But heaven help us if we have to put them in effect.”
A litany of other programs and services, such as Head Start programs, child care for low-income families, nutrition assistance for seniors and more, are projected to be impacted throughout the state if Congress does not act to forestall the indiscriminate budget cuts.
Amy Brundage, the Obama Administration’s deputy press secretary for the economy, emphasized in a press conference that the sequester is not only avoidable, but was part of a plan set previously by Congress to encourage bipartisan negotiations to balance the nation’s budget.
“It’s important to keep in mind that the sequester was never intended to be policy,” she says. “It was passed with Republican support in congress to ensure that there was a trigger mechanism, a forcing event that would compel Congress on both sides to work together to reduce the deficit in a balanced way.”
Back in Washington, however, bipartisan negotiations on carving out a new federal budget have stalled, and Democrats and Republicans blame each other for the impasse.