Local Politics

Next budget deadline could bring big military cuts

Posted October 18, 2013 5:55 p.m. EDT
Updated October 18, 2013 6:20 p.m. EDT

— Two days after President Barack Obama signed legislation that reopened the federal government, officials are already looking toward the next budget deadline in January.

The budget deal approved by Congress late Wednesday funds the government through Jan. 15 and allows the U.S. Treasury to continuing borrowing to finance operations through Feb. 7.

The Jan. 15 deadline for a new budget also carries the threat of about $100 billion in across-the-board spending cuts under the second round of the federal sequester. Those cuts would include about $52 billion to the military.

State leaders say that could devastate North Carolina's economy, noting the first round of sequestration last spring led to furloughs and service cuts at Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and other military facilities across the state.

The only way to head the sequester off is for Congress to approve an alternative plan to balance the budget. This week's deal does require the House and Senate to go back to the negotiating table.

"The effect is going to be especially hard on our military because they were, to some extent, protected in the last round. They cannot be protected this time," Democratic 4th District Congressman David Price said. "Moreover, things like medical research, highway building, Head Start, it's going to be very, very serious. We need to find other ways of addressing our budget issues."

Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr agreed that the automatic cuts must be avoided, but he said Democrats have refused till now to consider any plan that doesn't involve raising tax revenue.

"I hope that the recent decision to go to conference on the budget means we can finally take sequestration off the table and start cutting the rampant waste, fraud and abuse out of government spending," Burr said in a statement.

Republican 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers echoed Burr in laying the blame at the feet of Senate Democrats. Ellmers spokesman Tom Doheny said the House passed a Defense Appropriations Bill that addresses some of the problems with sequestration, but the Senate hasn't followed suit.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said she is working to protect North Carolina military facilities, noting that sequestration jeopardizes military readiness in addition to hurting the economy and military families.

"It’s time for Congress to stop manufacturing crises and get to work on a long-term bipartisan plan that gets our fiscal house in order and grows our economy without placing the burden of reducing our deficit on the backs of our service members and middle-class North Carolina families," Hagan said in a statement.

Gov. Pat McCrory and several of his top cabinet officials will travel to Washington, D.C., on Monday to meet with senior military leaders, and his representatives said the automatic cuts will be at the top of the agenda.