State News

Perdue: Automatic federal cuts would hurt NC children, business

Posted August 1, 2012 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated August 1, 2012 6:53 p.m. EDT

Economy

— The drumbeat of companies seeking to protect their Pentagon revenues continued to build Wednesday at a North Carolina event opposing more than $1 trillion in budget cuts to both domestic and defense programs.

Aerospace and defense industry executives met in Cary to draw attention to the cuts looming at the end of the year unless Congress acts. Gov. Beverly Perdue told them that the so-called sequestration cuts also are poised to harm schools and other domestic priorities.

The state Department of Public Instruction could see an $83 million cut, while the Department of Health and Human Services could lose $35 million.

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee estimates Head start in North Carolina would lose more than $13.4 million, meaning it could serve 2,100 fewer children. Nearly $6 million less for child care subsidies would mean 4,000 fewer slots.

Also, $378,000 in cuts to child immunization funding could leave 5,500 youngsters without vaccines. Low-income schools would get $34 million dollars less, affecting 51,000 students, and special education would lose $26.5 million, affecting 13,000 students.

The sequestration cuts were agreed to last summer by congressional Republican leaders and President Barack Obama as a worst-case scenario. It was supposed to force Democrats and Republicans to find common ground to solving budget problems, but a bipartisan committee struck out last fall, and Congress remains gridlocked.

Perdue told business leaders that North Carolina has too much to lose from the cuts, and she urged area residents to push Congress to break through party lines and find a solution.

"Quite simply, I believe catastrophic is not too strong a word to use," she said, noting the state could lose 29,000 jobs if the cuts occur.

The governor was on Capitol Hill Tuesday to talk about the problem with North Carolina congressional members.

"There's an unwillingness in Washington to come to some bipartisan consensus that will very likely require some revenue and some cuts," she said. "We send people to Washington to do their jobs. I do mine, other people do theirs and they ought to do theirs."

Perdue said the state doesn't have the money to absorb the cuts to human services, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said there's likewise no money to make up for education cuts.

In the defense industry, a Senate report says North Carolina would lose health screenings, education, senior nutrition, veteran's services and employment help worth more than $100 million.

Perdue said the cuts could cost the state's military sector more than $1.5 billion in contracts.