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Sequestration brings new norm to US

James Taylor, News Writer
March 13, 2013
Filed under News

As the words brinkmanship and sequester have become a part of the modern lexicon, so has the realization that federally mandated spending cuts will slash funding for programs utilized primarily by women, children, the unemployed and poor.

Federally mandated budget cuts took effect March 1 due to an impasse between national leaders in the Democratic and Republican parties. These cuts, known as the sequester, became reality 18 months ago when an ongoing stalemate between political parties arose regarding the national debt limit in 2011.

Each state will be affected differently by sequestration. Wisconsinites will be impacted in several areas, including education, environmental funding, nutritional assistance for seniors and employment assistance.

A state-by-state impact report released by the White House indicates students participating in financial aid programs will also be affected. Approximately 550 fewer low-income students in Wisconsin would receive aid to finance college costs, and around 420 fewer students would be eligible to enroll in work-study jobs.

Jim Rohan, UW-Green Bay financial aid director, isn’t anticipating such changes at UWGB.

“There won’t be any changes for this academic year regarding financial aid or work-study,” Rohan said. “Unofficially, we’re not expecting a change for the 2013-14 academic years either. We’ll know more about its effects soon.”

Currently, 230 UWGB students participate in work-study programs. Work-study allows UWGB to employ students in a number of positions which allow them to pay for college costs. A percentage of student wages are split between government allocations and UWGB.

Students enrolled in these programs need to present a need for financial aid, Rohan said.

Despite the funding cuts associated with sequestration, UWGB may not be impacted as much as other schools throughout the country.

“I’m optimistic we won’t see any cuts to our current programming,” Rohan said. “It’s difficult to determine how we will be affected until more information becomes available in the first week of April.”

Some Americans view the sequester as a necessary evil to lower the federal deficit or as a social disruption to necessary programs.

Anastasia McCain, freshman pre-law student, doesn’t believe the sequester will affect Green Bay as much as other communities.

“Locally, people won’t be hurt as much as those working in the Transportation Security Administration or airport security,” McCain said. “Schools will be hurt by this, though — possibly even local schools.”

The cuts affect a small minority of Americans and even fewer UWGB students. However, there the possibility of further cuts during future negotiations.

“The way this will pan out is many will think, ‘Sure, you can cut these programs now because they don’t affect me,’” McCain said. “But in the future, there is the possibility that more cuts may happen that might affect more people.”

Continuing the brinkmanship of the previous 18 months may lead to a federal government shutdown March 27 if the House of Representatives and Senate fail to pass legislation securing government funding after the current deal expires. A wide range of agencies will be forced to halt operations.

David Helpap, UWGB political science professor, said ideologic differences are among the main reasons for brinkmanship.

“Each party has a particular idea as to what a sequester deal or budgetary deal should look like,” Helpap said. “Republicans don’t like revenue generated by tax increases, and Democrats don’t like to cut spending on social programs. The House and Senate will need to make a deal to avoid a shutdown at month’s end.”

Similar to uncertainty faced within the student financial aid sector, many aspects of the sequester won’t take effect until later this year.

Furloughs of federal employees working in airport security, law enforcement and public health are expected to begin in April.

UWGB students, faculty and staff utilizing Medicare, flying to destinations or those who have children participating in vaccination programs may have to make other arrangements to ensure those needs are met.

Brinkmanship and sequestration may be new concepts to many UWGB students, but they won’t be foreign ideas for very long, as a renewed era of partisan politics becomes the norm.

“They’re basically playing a game of chicken,” McCain said. “Neither party expected this sequester to actually go through, and now we’re going to deal with the consequences.”