Rep. Cleaver says sequestration is hurting Missouri

Congress didn’t want sequestration’s automatic budget cuts – thought them so harsh they would never go into effect – but they are likely here to stay, said U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver.

The cuts started in March because Congress could not reach agreement on a more rational approach and it still cannot, he told the city council last week.

“The problem is philosophical, political and ideological,” he said.

Conservatives will not agree to any tax increases to help reduce the federal budget and liberals insist they be part of the mix, he said.

So sequestration rolls on for eight years with the intent to lower spending by $1.1 trillion from pre-sequester levels.

All this is happening, Cleaver said, when federal spending is 14.9 percent of the gross domestic product – a far smaller ratio than the 18 percent in averaged over the previous 60 years.

The dollar cuts are split evenly between defense and non-defense categories, exempting some things like social security, Medicaid, federal pensions and veteran’s benefits.

They mean Missouri will lose almost $12 million for schools, about $298,000 in justice assistant grants, and $171,000 for vaccinating children, according to a handout Cleaver gave council members.

It will lose $758,000 in funding for job search assistance, $572,000 for public health and $211,000 for state health care, it says.

“The cuts impact everything from Truman Medical Center to agencies providing public food,” Cleaver said.

Head Start programs will lose over 1,500 students in Missouri and, he said, a program that helps hire police nationwide will lose $13 million in funding.

The gridlock in Washington also looks bad in other ways, he said.

The 18-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax critical to funding highways and other infrastructure is falling way short because of higher gas mileage of newer cars.

In the old days, Congress would make a deal to raise the tax, but “with the acrimony in Washington, that’s not going to happen.”

And next month, Congress will have days to work out a continuing resolution to fund government operations, or not to fund them.

Councilwoman Melba Curls told Cleaver, “I’m getting more and more depressed.”

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