White House: Sequestration in Massachusetts to cost 10,000 jobs, affect schools, defense, police


PITTSFIELD -- Fewer teachers and instructional aides, fewer children receiving vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella, and more than 10,000 jobs in Massachusetts are at risk if Congress can't come to a compromise and prevent massive spending cuts that begin Friday, according to the White House.

With just three days before the $85 billion budget slash, President Barack Obama continued to put pressure on Republican legislators to prevent the across-the-board cuts, a process known as sequestration, and released a state-by-state breakdown on the impacts of the 10-year cuts worth $1.2 trillion.

"By not asking the wealthy to pay a little more, Republicans are forcing our children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction," the White House statement said. "The president is determined to cut spending and reduce the deficit in a balanced way, but he won't stick the middle-class with the bill."

According to the White House report, Massachusetts would lose approximately $13.9 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting nearly 190 teacher and aide jobs at risk.

The cuts would also put 7,000 civilian Department of Defense employees in the state on furlough, reduce funding for law enforcement by $300,000 and programs that provide services to victims of domestic violence, and meal assistance for seniors by a combined $675,000.

Rob Doolittle, a spokesman for General Dynamics, said it's unclear how, or if, the cuts will affect the company and its contracts with the Department of Defense.

"Until our customers tell us how, or if, to change those contracts and the work we're doing for them, we can't estimate the impact," he told The Eagle.

He said the Pittsfield location, which builds mission systems for the Littoral Combat Ship, hasn't seen any decline in production because of the longer process it takes to build such a component but other offices that build short-term projects, about six months or so, has seen production slow.

Throughout New England and nationally, the cuts could affect everything from commercial flights to food inspections.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, said most people in his district have told him the sequestration would do "significant damage" in the region.

"They believe this is just another manufactured crisis, and would rather see Congress work together in a bipartisan manner to cut taxes and reduce the deficit. I agree," Neal said.

"With four legislative days left before the deadline, I hope a common sense, fair and balanced compromise can be reached that will prevent these devastating spending cuts from taking place. The American people are interested in solutions, not gimmicks."

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, speaking at a meeting in Boston with New England business leaders on Monday, called the automatic spending cuts a "mindless across-the-board approach" the solving the country's budget woes.

"I cannot believe we have gotten to this point once again, that we seem to have a government ... that only waits until the 59th minute of the 11th hour to say, ‘OK, maybe we'll do something that isn't catastrophic.'"

Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.

This story will be updated in future editions of The Eagle.

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