The federal government’s sequester budget cuts due to take effect Friday will cause thousands of Floridians to lose their jobs, Gov. Rick Scott told President Barack Obama in a letter Wednesday.
Scott warned that Florida’s numerous military installations and its defense industry would be severely impacted by the broad, automatic budget cuts. The reductions, totaling $85 billion, would slash defense and domestic spending, and could affect everything from commercial flights to meat inspections.
Targeted spending cuts are needed, the Republican governor told the Democratic president.
“If you administration fails to do its job to responsibly manage the budget, thousands of Floridians will lose their jobs under sequestration,” Scott wrote. “There is no doubt that budget cuts must be made at the national level, just as we do here at the state level. But, it is the responsibility of the administration to administer spending reductions responsibly. Instead of cutting with a scalpel, your sequestration process is a meat cleaver.”
Obama agrees with Scott about the approach that the sequester takes to the budget – but blames congressional Republicans for not being willing to compromise.
"Instead of cutting out the government spending we don’t need – wasteful programs that don't work, special interest tax loopholes and tax breaks – what the sequester does is it uses a meat cleaver approach to gut critical investments in things like education and national security and life-saving medical research," Obama said during a visit to Newport News, Virginia on Tuesday.
He also addressed the comments by governors around the U.S., including Republican leaders, who have said they want Congress to stop the sequester.
"There are too many Republicans in Congress right now who refuse to compromise even an inch when it comes to closing tax loopholes and special interest tax breaks. And that's what's holding things up right now," said Obama, who has been calling for a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to achieve deficit reduction goals.
The president is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders from both parties Friday, after the cuts begin taking effect virtually at midnight. White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that Obama hopes the meeting will have a "constructive discussion" about how to keep the cuts from having harmful consequences.
Scott called Florida “one of America’s most defense-centric states,” noting that it is home to three unified combatant commands and 20 major Air Force and Navy installations.
Scott said he was immediately concerned about “dramatic reductions to our National Guard,” which would threaten Florida’s ability to respond to wildfires and hurricanes.
In South Florida – which has the U.S. Southern Command in Doral, as well as a naval air station in Key West – Navy in-flight training would be reduced by 44 percent due to the budget cuts, according to Scott.
The White House says about 31,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed in Florida because of the sequester, which would save about $183.2 million.
Funding for Air Force operations in the state would be cut by about $23 million, Army base funding would be cut by about $7 million, and about $138 million in Navy funding – largely for aircraft depot maintenance in Jacksonville – could be canceled, according to the White House.
The White House said the impact of the cuts won’t be immediate. Federal workers would be told next week that they will have to take up to a day every week off without pay, but the furloughs wouldn’t start for a month.