SAN FRANCISCO -- As the countdown to the $85 billion in federal spending cuts triggered by the sequester ticks down to less then a week, the Obama Administration has released a report looking at how the reductions would affect each state. And the potential repercussions for California are enormous.
Among a laundry list of other cuts, the administration's report says that California's K-12 education system will lose approximately $87.6 million (in addition to $62.9 million targeted toward children with disabilities); 9,600 college students will lose a portion of their federal aid; some 64,000 civilian military employees will be temporarily laid off, and environmental air and water protection efforts will be scaled back by $12.4 million.
Initially, these cuts were slated to take effect at the beginning of this year along with a set of across-the-board tax increases (remember the whole "fiscal cliff" debacle?). However, the parties in Washington reached a deal that avoided tax hikes and pushed back the spending cuts to the new deadline of March 1. Unless, of course, everyone can agree to a deal that would avert said cuts entirely.
The looming cuts mean serious trouble for government-funded organizations, like University of California system.
"As you can see, it's going to have a profound effect on higher ed in general and the University of California in particular," explained the UC's Associate Vice President for Federal Government Relations Gary Falle. "Especially in research, student aid and cuts to Medicare."
The sequester mandates a two percent cut to Medicare's payments to providers, one of the rare pieces of flesh the mechanism will slice off the country's entitlement system. Such a reduction would likely hit the teaching hospitals at the UC's five medical centers hard, reducing both their bottom lines and the number of Medicare recipients they are able to serve.
The Office of Management and Budget has yet to release a comprehensive set of details outlining which agencies will be forced to make which cuts. This has made it difficult for organizations that depend on federal dollars, like the University of California, to make plans ahead of time that could soften the blow.
"We're talking about tremendous, immediate impacts that every single American will experience," Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) told the Los Angeles Daily News. "This sends the wrong signal at this moment."
The administration's recently released report aims to push Republicans in Congress to accept Obama's proposal to avoid sequestration, which includes a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts over plans favored by many GOP members exclusively containing spending reductions.
"The president’s plan meets Republicans more than halfway and includes twice as many spending cuts as it does tax revenue from the wealthy," the report charges. "Unfortunately, many Republicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes so that we can protect investments that are helping grow our economy and keep our country safe."
Republican leaders in Washington slammed the release as nothing more than political theater. "Rather than issuing last-minute press releases on cuts to first responders or troop training or airport security, he should propose smarter ways to cut Washington spending. After all, Washington spending, even with the sequester, is bigger than it was when he got here," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-Ky.) said in a statement to the Huffington Post.
A recent poll by USA Today and the Pew Research Center found that 49 percent of respondents would primarily blame Republicans if a sequester deal isn't struck, while only 31 percent would fault the president.