By Roger Larsen
Hours before automatic spending cuts were to go into effect, Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., sharply criticized the White House for a failure of leadership.
“We deserve better, our kids deserve better and so does our country,” she said in a conference call with reporters.
Noem and other Republicans are reminding Americans this week that the House has voted twice to replace the so-called sequestration of across-the-board cuts with a plan to better target them to keep the pain to a minimum.
It’s been almost 300 days since the House first took action, Noem said.
Instead of considering more targeted cuts, President Obama wants to raise taxes, she said.
“We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” Noem said.
While the sequester cuts will hurt, doing nothing will cause much greater pain for future generations, she said.
Half of the $85 billion in cuts will affect the defense budget, but other segments of the country will also be impacted.
For hospitals and other medical providers, it will mean about a 2 percent cut in reimbursements, Noem said. That is significant for facilities that struggle to meet challenges in rural areas, she said.
Next month, 244 employees at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls expect to be furloughed.
Also, the state budget will lose up to $10 million in federal funding.
Uncertainty over the long-term impact of the cuts on state programs may necessitate a special session of the Legislature, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Thursday.
Daugaard said he expects Obama and Congress to take action to reverse or modify the cuts within a few months. State government can manage the cuts through the end of the state budget year June 30.
However, if the cuts are prolonged and have significant impacts on state programs, the Legislature might have to return to Pierre to adjust next year’s state budget.
Sen. Jim White, R-Huron, said at the weekly District 22 legislative forums in Huron this winter that a special session is possible. He and Rep. Dick Werner, R-Huron, are both members of the Appropriations Committee.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., agrees that a more sensible approach to across-the-board cuts involve smaller, targeted cuts. He also sees growing support among Senate Republicans to temporarily give the president more discretion in identifying cuts to low-priority spending programs until the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.
A balanced approach, like the president has been calling for, is what Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., supports.
“Unfortunately, the sequester will start immediately; the effects will be felt like a slow-moving train wreck,” he said in a news release.
“Across the state, the sequester will affect military civilians, meals for seniors, teachers and first responders,” he said.
He said the sequester will result in a 5.1 percent cut to all non-defense discretionary spending, including the Federal Aviation Administration, education and national parks.
“The sequester is even harder on discretionary defense spending, which will take a 7.7 percent cut between now and September 31,” he said.
Noem is critical of Obama because she said he has neither weighed in on the House proposal nor provided an alternative.
“We need leadership,” she said. “Unfortunately, the House can’t fix everything by themselves.”