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Sequester pain cuts deeper than flight delays

May 2, 2013
In The News

Forty-one members of the House opposed the Reducing Flight Delays Act that was cobbled together by Congress as a rapid response to the griping of business travelers about air travel delay caused by sequester cuts to the FAA.

Twelve were sincere conservatives — such as Michigan Republican Justin Amash — who really do want to reduce not just spending but the role of government.

Twenty-nine were sincere progressives who wanted to address flight delays but who refused to make the concerns of frequent fliers a higher priority than the concerns of others who have been feeling the pain of sequester cuts.

Only one Wisconsinite voted “no”: Madison Democrat Mark Pocan.

Pocan, the former co-chair of the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee and current member of the House Budget Committee, relishes the fight over budget priorities.

So much so that on Wednesday he went to the Dane County Regional Airport to demand an end to the “piecemeal” approach to addressing the pain caused by sequester cuts.

The congressman gathered with seniors, students and others from the community who are experiencing the pain caused by the sequester. And he delivered a blunt message: It’s time for a comprehensive fix that will address the whole of the mess created by indiscriminate cuts to necessary programs.

“If you were to judge by Congress’ actions, you’d think waiting in line at the airport was more important to us than providing meals to seniors, early education for kids or critical care to cancer patients,” said Pocan. “The sequester is not just a bad idea for one program or group — it’s a bad idea for everyone, and it’s past time we eliminate it from our books and our memories. House Republicans need to allow us to move forward with a budget, and Congress needs to come together and support all of our hard-working families, not just those with influence.”

At the airport, Pocan noted that, while Wisconsinites will not have to worry about sequester-forced flight delays, there's still plenty of sequester pain being felt.

To wit:

• Wisconsin seniors will receive fewer Meals on Wheels, a federally assisted program that contributes to the overall health and well-being of participating seniors.

• Close to 1,000 Wisconsin children and families will lose access to Head Start services.

• Cancer clinics have begun to turn away cancer patients due to reduced Medicare funding.

• Cuts being made to programs that offer federal housing assistance could place thousands of families at risk of losing permanent housing.

• $35 million in funding will be cut for UW researchers, slowing their innovative research by years.

• Wisconsin will lose approximately $10.1 million in funds for teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.

• There will be a $900 million decrease in small business loan guarantees.

• Wisconsin will lose about $661,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral and placement, meaning around 23,120 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.

• Nationwide, 424,000 fewer HIV tests will be provided, and more than 7,000 people could lose access to life-saving HIV medications.

• College students could see reduced work-study opportunities and increased rate hikes on certain student loans.

The Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of the Sojourners movement, has long argued that “Our budget is a moral document and it is either going to reflect the best of who we are or the worst.”

Pocan gets the point. The congressman doesn’t like flight delays. But he’s arguing that there are equal and higher priorities that Congress should be addressing.