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White House: Budget cuts to pinch NY kids, teachers, air travelers

House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama

House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama have been negotiating to avoid the so-called "sequester" spending cuts, which are scheduled to take effect nationwide Friday. (Feb. 24, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

Some $85 billion in meat-cleaver federal spending cuts scheduled to take effect nationwide Friday would sting New York State, threatening 590 teacher and aide positions, forcing the furlough of 12,000 civilian Defense Department workers and triggering security guard cuts that would delay travelers at area airports, according a report released Sunday by the White House.

The across-the-board "sequester" cuts, described as a crude tool by both Democrats and Republicans, also would take a $92 million budget bite from West Point and $3.1 million from the Camp Smith Army National Guard training site in the Town of Cortlandt, according to previously released documents.

"Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco and others could experience delays of up to 90 minutes," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and 100 air-traffic control towers at smaller airports could be shut down entirely.

The Treasury Department wrote to Congress stating that under sequestration the IRS would process fewer tax returns. That could mean delays in tax refunds for individuals and a slower revenue stream for Washington.

Though the spending cuts, devised as a way to force President Barack Obama's administration and Republican leaders to bridge their differences and agree on a plan to reduce the deficit, would take effect this week, job cuts and furloughs would not be expected to hit until about April 1.

The White House, which released the report Sunday night, and fellow Democrats have been focusing on the fallout caused by the sequester as a way to increase pressure on Republicans.

"Unfortunately, many Republicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes," the report said.

Republicans, meanwhile, are blaming the administration for the failure to reach a budget deal.

"The reason there is no agreement is because there's no leadership from the president on actually recognizing what the problem is," said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

Some Hudson Valley residents viewed the sequester as little more than political theater.

"It's not going to happen. It's scare tactics," said Susan Asphar McDermott of Bronxville. "They want to embarrass Republicans into giving ground. Obama wants to raise more taxes. It's a political stunt, all manipulated by him to get people on his side for the budget battle."

Grace Spabaccini of Tuckahoe, meanwhile, took a more conciliatory stance.

"I think we need a compromise between the two parties," she said. "Everybody needs to get together. Everyone needs to relinquish something they want. If people stay divided, we won't accomplish anything."

The White House report's predictions for the impact to New York State in 2013 include the following:

• $42.7 million in funding cuts for primary and secondary schools

• 4,300 children eliminated from Head Start and Early Head Start

• 440 teachers, aides and staff axed from education for children with disabilities programs

• Cuts of about $12.9 million in funding to ensure clean air and water

• About $5.7 million trimmed from substance abuse treatment grants

• Up to $412,000 slashed in funds to help victims of domestic abuse

• About $1.4 million carved from funds to provide nutrition assistance for senior citizens

• Roughly $500,000 chopped from vaccine programs, meaning more than 7,000 children would not receive shots

Nationwide, the White House report said, almost 400 national parks would be partly or fully closed, with shortened operating hours. And more than 100,000 formerly homeless people would be removed from their housing and emergency shelters.

More than 3.8 million people unemployed for at least six months could see their unemployment payments slashed by almost 10 percent.

Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee earlier issued a report that forecast cuts of $1.9 billion to the aid New York and surrounding states were expecting to receive to help them recover from superstorm Sandy.

With D.Z. Stone, News12 and The Associated Press

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