The White House on Sunday painted a bleak picture of what would happen to the state if mandatory spending cuts go into effect March 1, saying 350 Ohio teachers would lose their jobs, 2,500 Ohio children would lose access to Head Start and 26,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed.
The numbers were part of a state-by-state report released by the White House to stress the need to reverse $85 billion in cuts that would begin March 1 and run through the end of September, part of a plan to reduce the budget by $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
The report was also the latest salvo in an ongoing fight between Republicans and Democrats over who’s to blame for the cuts, which both the White House and Congress agreed to back in 2011.
Republicans say the cuts were Obama’s idea and that they pushed two plans last year to avoid the cuts; Democrats say that Obama’s plan to avoid the cuts with a mix of tax increases and spending cuts has been met with intransigence from House Republicans. “The cuts are going into effect because Republicans are choosing for it to go into effect,” said White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer.
Republicans also say that the White House is painting the bleakest possible scenario about the cuts’ impact in order to force their hand.
“The White House needs to spend less time explaining to the press how bad the sequester will be and more time actually working to stop it,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said on Fox News Sunday that the Obama administration was exaggerating the effects of the cuts, known in Washington parlance as “the sequester.”
“It is a terrible way to cut spending, but not to cut 2.5 percent over the total budget over a year when it is twice the size it was 10 years ago? Give me a break,” Coburn said. “We see all these claims about what a tragedy it’s going to be.”
He said the government had “plenty of discretion” in terms of how to spend money.
But the White House report, which included state-by-state numbers, implied the cuts would have a very real impact.
Among other things, the cuts would mean $25.1 million in funding losses for primary and secondary education in Ohio, with about 34,000 fewer students and 100 fewer schools receiving federal dollars.
The report also found that if the cuts went through, about 1,450 fewer Ohio students would be eligible for work-study jobs to help them pay for college.
The state would receive $6.86 million less in environmental protection money; about $455,000 less in Justice Assistance Grants supporting law enforcement, prosecution and crime prevention and education; and about $1.78 million less in funding for job search assistance, referral and placement, meaning about 57,100 fewer Ohioans would be able to receive such help.
About 5,040 fewer Ohio children would receive vaccines for diseases including measles, mumps, rubella and tetanus. And the state would lose about $823,000 to pay for meals for seniors.
Pfeiffer acknowledged that many of the effects would not necessarily occur overnight.
But, he said, “this debate is going to have a very real impact on people’s lives and people’s communities.”
“The president has a responsibility to make sure the American people understand what’s at stake here in this debate,” he said.