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White House says budget cuts will hit Pa., NJ hard

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 24 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 26 2013 06:44:48 AM CST

The White House claims Pennsylvania and New Jersey will both lose billions of dollars if automatic spending cuts go through on Friday.

The White House claims Pennsylvania and New Jersey will both lose billions of dollars if automatic spending cuts go through on Friday -- the so-called "sequestration." But some Republicans claim the President is channeling "Chicken Little."

Call it the "shame game" between President Obama and Congress.

"In just four days, Congress is poised to allow a series of arbitrary automatic budget cuts to kick in that will slow economy, eliminate good jobs, leave a lot of folks who are already pretty thinly stretched scrambling to figure out what to do," the President said Monday.

The White House claims Pennsylvania and New Jersey's share of the cuts is significant.

In Pennsylvania, the administration estimates that 26,000 civilian employees could be furloughed one day a week, essentially an unpaid day off.

The White House claims 11,000 civilian defense workers will face furloughs in New Jersey. Locally, the cuts would affect Tobyhanna Army Depot in the Poconos, and Picatinny Arsenal in northwest New Jersey.

The Keystone State's unemployed could lose nearly a million dollars in job search assistance, according to the administration. Meal programs for seniors, environmental funding, domestic violence programs, and children's vaccine programs would see cuts, they said.

But the big loser could be education. The White House claims $26 million in school funding is at risk in Pennsylvania, putting 360 jobs in jeopardy. The Garden State faces $11.7 million in school funding cuts, risking 160 jobs, said the White House.

Republicans said the White House is fear mongering over the cuts.

"There's been a fair amount of fear mongering going on by the President and some in his administration, dramatizing the impact of these cuts," said U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R - Lehigh Valley.

Dent said the President is playing a dangerous game of chicken, refusing to tweak the cuts so they're less damaging.

"The president talks about balance," said Dent. "The fiscal cliff at the end of the year only dealt with revenue; it did not deal with spending. If the president doesn't like his own sequester, then he can present an alternative."

In New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy clean-up could also be on the chopping block. The state could lose up to $3 billion in relief funds, according to February testimony by the federal Housing and Urban Development secretary.

Also set to be eliminated is an extra billion dollars from FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund.

"Except for the initial quick response of FEMA, the rest of the response has been sort of slow to come," said U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D - Hunterdon Co.

Republicans said they've offered less damaging alternatives, but spending has to come down to save the nation's credit rating.

"We had to do it," said Gov. Scott Walker, R - Wisconsin. "We had to put up or shut up."

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley added: "Something's wrong. My kids could go and find $83 billion out of a $4 trillion budget. This is not rocket science "

Uncharacteristically silent on the sequester so far is New Jersey's outspoken Gov. Chris Christie, eyeing a possible 2016 presidential run.

"This puts him in an awkward position," said Holt. "Usually he is quite outspoken about whatever is on his mind."

Christie may have more to say on Tuesday, when he delivers his latest budget address in Trenton.