Monday, July 8, 2013

Sequester politics in Florida: The National Guard takes (an unwanted) day off

Posted By on Mon, Jul 8, 2013 at 9:04 PM

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Nearly 1,000 National Guardsmen in Florida have the day off today, thanks to the federal sequester cuts imposed earlier this year. Guard members in the Sunshine State and other states around the country will be furloughed for one day a week starting today for the next three months.

Rick Scott has been squawking about that issue for months now, because it comes as hurricane season begins to grow more intense, and today the governor joined fellow GOP governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Phil Bryan of Mississippi in composing a note to President Obama to exempt federal military technicians from such furloughs.

The governors highlight the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and wildfires in Colorado as clearly demonstrating the importance of National Guardsmen to keep the Gulf Coast safe as we get closer to the heart of hurricane season, which in recent years has been in August and September.

Meanwhile, Democrats are using the sequester to bash Congressional Republicans who voted for it earlier this year.

The sequester cuts took out $85 billion from the federal budget when it kicked in on March 1. They are coming equally from both domestic and defense programs, hence the effect on the National Guard. The cuts were designed to be so onerous that they would never take effect, as Congress voted on it originally back in the summer of 2011. But even though both Republicans and Democrats said they didn't like it, they were unable to come up with an alternative.

Democrats say Congressional Republicans like Pinellas County's Bill Young and Tallahassee's Steve Southerland voted against Democratic sponsored bills that would have replaced the sequester with a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts.

About 3,500 civilian employees at MacDill Air Force Base will be directly affected, with the Tampa Tribune reporting that nearly $8 million in wages will be lost over the next three months.

Members of both political parties have blamed the opposition for allowing the sequester to happen. President Obama vowed during one of the presidential debates last fall against Mitt Romney that it wouldn't happen, while GOP Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte toured the country last summer — including to Tampa — to warn that such cuts would be devastating to places like MacDill.

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