With time rapidly running out until sequestration goes into effect this Friday, many local officials still aren't sure exactly how the automatic federal spending cuts would play out in Washington state.
According to the White House, Washington's biggest losses would be in education and military spending. In 2013, officials have said our state would lose $11.6 million in funding for primary and secondary education, along with $11.3 million for education for children with disabilities—which would together put about 300 education jobs at risk.
The Issaquah School District, which also serves students in Sammamish, said Tuesday that it "anticipates losing up to $350,000 in funding if lawmakers cannot reach a compromise."
In a statement on its website, the district said the effects would be minimal this school year, but would have a bigger impact for the 2013-14 school year.
"The cuts would come in the areas of Title I funding for low-income schools, special-education services, and school lunch services," it said. "All told, the Issaquah School District would lose about 5.6 percent of its total federal funding, or about $350,000.
"Because local levy dollars are capped at a percentage of state and federal revenue, the sequestration would cost the Issaquah School District the ability to collect an additional $100,000 per school year.
"If the federal funding decreases do occur, the district will have to decide where to absorb the costs—either by reducing programs or cutting elsewhere—during the local budgeting process."
Meanwhile, in the Lake Washington School District, the loss of federal funding could amount to about $445,000 by district estimates, but luckily would not affect local schools in the 2012-13 school year, LWSD spokeswoman Kathryn Reith said. And, she added, though it's significant, the cuts would be in the context of a $213 million budget.
"The good news is our federal grants are awarded in July so we already have the grants that cover this school year, so we don’t anticipate a mid-year cut," Reith said.
"The biggest impact would be on special education funding, up to $260,000" in cuts, Reith said.
Luckily, since the cuts would be for the 2013-14 school year, there is an opportunity as the budget is reviewed this spring to determine exactly how the district will deal with the cuts.
"At least this gives an opportunity to look for ways to reallocate funding or handle the needs in a different way," Reith said, barring an 11th-hour solution on Capitol Hill.
Statewide, the impact to jobs would be more significant with military employees, according to the White House's projections. Across the state, about 29,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, resulting in a loss of $173.4 million in gross pay.
Some social services would also be hard hit. Washington stands to lose more than $1 million in nutritional assistance for senior residents and $143,000 in funds for victims of domestic violence—requiring the STOP Violence Against Women Program to serve approximately 500 fewer victims.
Unemployment insurance is another area that could see some impacts from sequestration. The Seattle Times reports that up to 141,000 Washington residents who are accepting unemployment checks could be impacted, but state officials aren't sure exactly how severe the cuts would be.
The Federal Aviation Administration has said it might shut down eight airports in our state—including Renton Municipal Airport and Paine Field in Everett—but it's still not clear whether or not that would actually happen, according to The Times.
A state-by-state comparison compiled by Wells Fargo shows Washington would be one of the states hardest-hit by sequestration because 5.9 percent of our state's GDP comes from federal spending—much of it in the form of military spending.
President Obama will meet with top Congressional leaders on Friday, the day sequestration is scheduled to begin taking effect.
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