Pennsylvania stands to lose tens of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs if federal sequestration isn't avoided this weekend.
That's the forecast by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., as he laid out his concerns Monday in support of Democrats' plan, with a March 1 date looming to avoid a series of federal budget cuts.
Sequestration, which has been looming for a year, is a series of across-the-board budget cuts over a decade totaling more than a trillion dollars. It was part of solution for the debt ceiling negotiations in 2011, with the idea that Congress would have time to find a less painful alternative before the sequestration kicked in.
Congress already delayed dealing with it at the end of 2012, using a three-month postponement.
They now have about three days.The Senate Democrats are pushing $55 billion in cuts coming from defense and farm subsidy direct payment cuts, and $55 billion in new revenue, mostly from raising taxes on millionaires, ending deductions for outsourcing, and closing an oil industry tax loophole. That would be enough to avoid 2013's sequestration cuts, Casey said.
Pennsylvania, Casey said, would lose 78,454 jobs by the end of the year, including 38,941 in the defense sector, if sequestration occurs.
K-12 federal education funding would be cut by $26 million in Pennsylvania, meaning about 29,000 fewer students would be helped.
Community Development Block Grants and job assistance programs would also see funding cuts.
Casey had particular concern that $73 million in National Institutes of Health funding headed to the state would be cut, money used for medical research.
"At a time we should be increasing funding for NIH, the sequester would go in the opposite direction," Casey said.
Casey said he has heard how people are "frustrated" that Republicans and Democrats are squabbling rather than coming to a resolution so near the deadline.
But Friday's deadline "leaves plenty of time to get it done," Casey said.
Not that he thinks the Republicans have put forth a reasonable plan, yet.
Casey said he thinks Republicans who are suggesting the sequestration cuts be allowed to go into effect to spur negotiations are "validating the underlying premise, and the premise is terribly, terribly flawed, that these should go into effect."
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey has supported sequestration cuts and does not want tax increases, saying President Obama should follow through on the 2011 debt ceiling deal.
"We should keep our word to the American people and keep the spending cuts you signed into law," Toomey said on his site, referring to Obama.Casey said any agreed-upon plan should "put in an approach that will protect middle income families, not (wealthy) families that have all the power."
The statistics are based on the impact of a year's worth of the cuts being in effect. Casey acknowledged the immediate impact wouldn't be as severe.
- Reach Andrew Shaw at email@example.com