Automatic spending cuts largely barked about this year might bite in 2014Published 10:02am Monday, November 11, 2013
WASHINGTON — The first year of automatic, across-the-board budget cuts didn’t live up to the dire predictions from the Obama administration and others who warned of sweeping furloughs and big disruptions of government services. The second round just might.
Several federal agencies found lots of loose change that helped them through the automatic cuts in the 2013 budget year that ended Sept. 30, allowing them to minimize furloughs and maintain many services. Most of that money, however, has been spent.
The Pentagon used more than $5 billion in unspent money from previous years to ease its $39 billion budget cut. Furloughs originally scheduled for 11 days were cut back to six days. The Justice Department found more than $500 million in similar money that allowed agencies like the FBI to avoid furloughs altogether.
Finding replacement cuts is the priority of budget talks scheduled to resume this week, but many observers think the talks won’t bear fruit. Agencies that have thus far withstood the harshest effects of the across-the-board cuts in 2013 are bracing for a second round of cuts that’ll feel a lot worse than the first.
A drop in participation and lower-than-expected food prices allowed a widely supported food program for low-income pregnant women and children to get through this year without having to take away anyone’s benefits. A second round of automatic sequestration cuts could mean some women with toddlers lose coverage next year.