Sequestration and what it means for Washington

$85 billion is a lot of money. And if that much in cuts from the federal budget are taken out starting March 1, there will be a lot of Americans feeling the sting of the latter.

What is Sequestration?

— A little background: Sequestration was originally used as a legal term that meant the obtainment of valuable property by the court for safekeeping while the dispute of its ownership was being resolved.

Nowadays, the term is used by Congress as Budget-Sequestration to describe a fiscal policy procedure that was part of an effort to reform Congressional voting procedures in 1985 so that the size of the Federal Budget was a matter of conscious choice rather that an automatic arithmetical outcome.

Sequestration is a package of automatic spending cuts that takes place across the board of the federal budget. It happens appropriation bills passed by Congress exceed the limits that were laid down earlier in the budget resolution and if Congress cannot agree on a way to cut back the total.

Everything that is cut is done between domestic and defense programs. There are some exemptions though such as Medicaid, Social Security, welfare and the food stamps program.

The sequester arose out of the Budget Control Act of 2011. It was supposed to serve as a disincentive for the so called “Super-committee” tasked with coming up with a plan and to be activated only if the congressional committee did not pass a legislation that would cut $1.2 trillion over the next ten years.

It didn’t happen.

And it was actually supposed to happen January 1, 2013, but was delayed until March 1, 2013, under the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

The looming cuts for 2013 total to $85.4 billion.

Credit: Washington Post

Credit: Washington Post

How will Washington State be affected?

Well, there’s going to be a lot of cuts if the sequestration goes through on March 1. This includes teachers and schools, military readiness, child care, vaccines for children, job-search assistance, etc.

Federal employees who work at places such as the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard may find themselves being furloughed-given one day a week-without pay. PSNS may even have to lay off some or all of its 921 seasonal workers.

Even their big employee-of the-year awards ceremony, one that has been attended with up to 800 people, has been postponed indefinitely.

Commanding officer Capt. Steve Williamson has been keeping employees up to date with facebook posts.

Washington is looking at approximately 29,000 civilian Department of Defense employees to be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $173.4 million in total.

Some advisors predict that the sequestration would raise the unemployment rate by 1/4 a percentage point up to 7.4%.

The Congressional Schism 

Both the Republicans and Democrats want to do what would almost expect them do to.

Republicans proposed a plan called the Spending Reduction Act of 2012. The plan would have replaced the 2013 defense sequester with a variety of spending cuts, including cuts to food stamps, the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank.

In summary: Republicans want no tax increases, no defense cuts and considerable domestic spending reductions.

Democrats introduced the American Family Economic Protection Act. This replaces the 2013 sequester with $110 billion in spending cuts and tax increases, spread out over the course of a decade. One of the policies includes what is known as a “Buffet Rule“-a minimum tax on income over $1 million.

In summary: The Democrats want to put higher taxes on the wealthy and cut military spending in excess of the sequester cuts.


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