For months, representatives in Congress have expressed concern about how the so-called fiscal cliff and sequestration will affect the military.
But there has been little discussion about how sequestration -- an inflexible budgetary tool created as an incentive to force bipartisan compromise to reduce the federal deficit -- will affect nonmilitary discretionary programs such as public health, environmental protection, law enforcement, transportation and worker safety.
If sequestration is imposed, it will require automatic cuts that will cost thousands of federal employees their jobs and reduce funding to nearly every program with the exception of some mandatory ones such as Social Security, Medicaid, federal retirement programs and programs administered by the Veterans Administration.
In Georgia, millions in funding would be cut from programs such as Head Start, where 518 jobs would be eliminated and 2,486 fewer children would be served.
More than $3 million in federal funding would be eliminated from the state's AIDS drug assistance program, $2.8 million from low income home energy assistance, $1.4 million from community services block grants and $3.9 million from substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.
In all, the state Department of Health and Human Services could see cuts of more than $40 million, Department of Education nearly $80 million and Department of Labor nearly $10 million.
State Rep.-elect Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, says federal sequestration will force state officials to make some difficult, if not painful, decisions during the upcoming legislative session.
"We're going to have to get innovative," he said. "It's going to be difficult, but it's something we have to accomplish."
Chapman says some of the budget adjustments the General Assembly will consider are "way overdue." If state lawmakers do their job, Chapman said Georgia could set an example other states will follow.
During a recent speech to Congress, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., expressed optimism that common ground can be reached between Democrats and Republicans.
"We don't have the luxury of not reaching a settlement," he said. "We should not be sitting around twiddling our thumbs."
Isakson described the threat of sequestration as "very dangerous" unless both sides agree on where to impose cuts and what to protect. He said the problem won't be resolved easily, but members of Congress are capable of making the difficult decisions necessary to avoid sequestration.
Congress should do what the American public has been forced to do for the past five years since the economy collapsed, he said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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