Latest from The Spokesman-Review
A squadron of U.S. Air Force F-15 fighters at Mountain Home Air Force Base that's been grounded for three months due to the federal sequestration budget cuts is now flying again, after Congress agreed to shift funds from overseas operations, the AP reports. Col. Chris Short, 366th Fighter Wing commander, called the move a "first step" toward regaining his squadron's combat capability after pilots for the past three months were confined to the base's four flight simulators. They can gain valuable practice there, but it hardly mimics the experience of actually flying above the desert faster than the speed of sound, he said. "The stand down had an immediate impact on our operational readiness, and it takes time to retrain aircrews to mission-ready status," Short said. "I'm happy to be flying again." Click below for a full report from Associated Press reporter John Miller.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — More than 800 Idaho National Guard employees will start taking furlough days mandated by federal budget cuts. Idaho National Guard spokesman Col. Tim Marsano says about 860 full-time employees will have one unpaid day off each week between now and the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Marsano says the federal budget cuts affect 860 military technicians and civilian workers. The federal budget cuts took effect when Congress failed to reach an agreement on a deficit reduction plan. For military families, the furloughs mean living with a 20 percent reduction in pay over the next several months. Marsano said it's also too soon to tell what kind of impact the furloughs will have on response to any disasters.
The Internal Revenue Service office in Coeur d'Alene is closing June 30 because of sequestration, a sign hanging on the office door reads. North Idaho residents needing assistance will have to go to the Spokane office, 920 W. Riverside Ave. Karen Connelly, IRS spokesperson, couldn't provide more information on the closure by Press deadline Monday, and employees at the office said they weren't at liberty to answer questions. But a sign on the office door announces the closure, citing the federal budget cuts that were implemented March 1, 2013, known as sequestration. Before it closes permanently, the office will also be closed May 24 and June 14 for the same reason. "It's nice to have an office locally instead of going to downtown Spokane," said Harold Markiewicz, of Post Falls, outside the office Monday. "It's an inconvenience to go over there"/Tom Hasslinger, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here. (Jerome A. Pollos Coeur d'Alene Press photo: Harold Markiewicz discusses his thoughts Monday about the Coeur d'Alene Internal Revenue Service office closing on June 30)
Question: Have you ever had to use the local IRS station?
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter called on the U.S. Department of Energy today to protect court-ordered cleanup work at the Idaho National Laboratory from sequestration cuts, saying, "Safety and the environment are non-negotiable terms for the State of Idaho.” Otter told the department, "INL is a significant asset and Idaho is prepared to exercise leadership to ensure the Lab remains the nation’s flagship nuclear research facility,” and added, "I strongly believe that in times of sustained reductions in discretionary spending, the federal government can and should consolidate its nuclear work in Idaho." Click below for the governor's full news release.
PARKS — The giant yellow snowplows that wake Yellowstone from its winter slumber every March are idled, waiting for the sun to make up for federal budget cuts that are forcing the park to open late for peak season.
Faced with an order from Washington to slice $1.8 million from his budget, the park superintendent, Dan Wenk, had considered his options, and delaying the plows was a better choice than cutting his already barebones staff of rangers and seasonal employees.
National Parks are just one of many agencies weighing choices being forced by the budget reductions known as sequestration.
Idaho’s senior senator and congressman both said today that they expect the automatic federal budget cuts required by sequestration to kick in as scheduled on March 1, forcing devastating cuts. “The one thing I’ve discovered is for every complex problem, there is a simple solution that doesn’t work,” said 2ndDistrict Congressman Mike Simpson. “I think sequestration is going to kick into effect, because I don’t see the will on either side of the aisle to try to address what are painfully stupid cuts – it’s a meat ax.”
The cuts, both in the military and in other discretionary federal spending, would be across the board, Simpson said. “They can’t prioritize.” Plus, he said, “It’s an $85 billion hit only on the discretionary side of the budget. It doesn’t address what is driving our debt, and what is driving our debt is the increases in mandatory spending. And that’s what we’ve got to get at.”
Sen. Mike Crapo said, “I agree with Mike, I think that we will go into the sequestration. It will begin implementing.” Before that happens, he said, both sides likely will put forth alternatives that the other side will shoot down. Said Simpson, “In the end, it’s got to be a solution that can be both bicameral and bipartisan, if it’s going to be adopted. But our big question has been: How do you get the American people to understand the seriousness of the problem?”
An event tonight at which both Crapo and Simpson will take part is aimed at that question. From 8-10 p.m. in the Capitol Auditorium, Simpson and Crapo will join Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, retired Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, and Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, for a symposium on which the panel will discuss the federal fiscal crisis and answer questions. Tickets for the free event are sold out, but there will be overflow rooms for viewing at the Capitol, and it also will be video-streamed live by Idaho Public Television. Tonight’s symposium is sponsored by the University of Idaho’s McClure Center for Public Policy Research; Greg Hahn of Idaho Public TV will be the moderator.
Crapo said there’s budget pain coming. “The pain is increased taxes, the pain is changes in the structure and operation of the entitlement system, the pain is the reduction in defense spending and in other discretionary spending programs, and the fact that we just don’t have the ability to continue to sustain borrowing money to continue to stimulate the economy.”
Asked if Idaho lawmakers should anticipate extending their legislative session to deal with the budget fallout from Washington, D.C. this spring, both Crapo and Simpson said no. “I don’t think they need to be in town months longer,” Simpson said. “There will be some impacts that affect the states.” Said Crapo, “The Legislature doesn’t need to stay in town any longer, but what it needs to do is to recognize that it is going to be dealing with a different budget picture from the federal government. We don’t know yet exactly what that budget picture is, but we do know that it will be much more austerity than has been there in the past.”
You can watch tonight’s event live here; click on “Auditorium.”
The new leader of the U.S. Senate’s Budget Committee said Tuesday that Republican threats to shutdown the government are irresponsible.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said there will be opportunities to negotiate budget cuts without crafting a deal around increasing the county’s borrowing limit.
“The budget ceiling debate just puts our country in a very precarious position where we’re defaulting on our loans,” said Murray, who held a forum about job programs in Spokane on Tuesday. “That puts every business and person in our country in jeopardy. And it’s not a good place to be debating.”
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