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White House Warns of Effects of Sequestration in Maine
02/25/2013   Reported By: Susan Sharon

A new report released by the White House today shows the potential effects of sequestration on Maine and the rest of the country if Congress doesn't act between now and Friday. As Susan Sharon reports, the across-the-board spending cuts could have the biggest effect on civilians who work for the Department of Defense.

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White House Warns of Effects of Sequestration in M
Originally Aired: 2/25/2013 5:30 PM

See Editor's Note below.

According to the report, nearly 7,000 civilians who work for the U.S. Army and Navy, at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, at the Defense Finance and Accounting Services Facility in Limestone, and at Bath Iron Works, would be subject to furloughs beginning in late April.

Maine Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree have written a letter to House leadership to warn of the consequences of inaction on Maine civilians who collectively earn more than $263 million in annual salaries. Tom LaRock is a spokesman for Defense Finance and Accounting Services, known as DFAS, where 600 civilians could be furloughed one day a week beginning in late April for as long as 22 weeks.

"At first blush it doesn't sound that bad, but when you look at the cumulative effect, during that period from April to the end of September, if it were to go that long you're basically looking at a 20 percent reduction in your pay," LaRock says.

LaRock says all 12,000 of the civilian employees who work for DFAS around the country have been notified about the possible furlough under sequestration, including the director of the agency. He says the policy applies across-the-board with few exceptions.

"The only exceptions are if you're a civilian deployed in a combat zone, you're exempt from the furlough," LaRock says. "Those that protect safety of life or property to the extent needed would be exempted from the furlough, and then there's what we call 'non appropriated fund employees' and some foreign national employees that are paid by other funds that would be exempted from furloughs."

At the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, it's a similar scenario, says communications director Pete Rogers. About 570 civilians are looking at furloughs. They do everything from working on payroll to providing training at the Maine National Guard.

"What we're looking at is it will definitely have an impact on military readiness, the ability to fight our federal war fighting obligations or a sustained disaster," Rogers says.

For example, the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor may have to ground aircraft because of reduced flying hours and maintenance support. And Army Guard units across the state may not be able maintain their vehicles, helicopters and other equipment.

In addition, the White House report also says Maine could see $2.7 million lost under sequestration for primary and secondary education, and $2.6 million for teachers and staff who help children with disabilities. Head Start services would be eliminated for about 300 children, immunizations would be reduced and 800 fewer people would be treated for substance abuse problems in Maine.

White House officials say sequestration requires $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts over the next seven months, unless a budget deal is reached.

Editor's Note: Late Monday afternoon, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee issued a statement criticizing Reps. Michaud and Pingree for earlier voting against canceling the sequester, twice. 

"Instead of voting for measures to cancel the devastating Sequestration cuts, Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree twice voted for party over people. Obviously Michaud and Pingree are more concerned with protesting these cuts in the press than actually using their power to stop them," says NRCC Spokesman Ian Prior, in the statement.



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