HEADLINES : New Jersey

N.J.braces for 'doomsday' budget cuts as sequestration looms

The Star-Ledger | by Steve Strunsky and Victoria St. Martin | February 21, 2013

The cuts, known in the parlance of budgetary legislation as "sequestration," would shave $1.2 trillion from federal spending over nine years. The first trim, to take effect March 1, amounts to $85 billion through the end of the fiscal year in September.

While the full weight of the reductions might not be felt immediately - and while congressional action in the weeks ahead would largely blunt the impact - the cuts have the potential to affect most New Jerseyans eventually, officials say.

Police officers and firefighters whose salaries are paid through federal grants could be let go. Teachers could be laid off in school districts squeezed for cash. Fewer loans would be made available to college students. The Head Start early education program would almost certainly be pared back.The New Jersey Hospital Association - which represents more than 100 health care systems, including nursing homes - said institutions in the state stand to lose more than $110 million this year and $1.3 billion over all nine years, imperiling hospitals already on shaky financial ground.

In a statement, a spokesman for the National Park Service warned of the potential for closures or reduced hours of operation at the nation's recreation areas, which draw 280 million visitors a year.

If federal budget cuts take effect as scheduled March 1, Newark Liberty International Airport could see big delays during the busy summer travel season, the FAA says. The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the airline industry and operates the nation's air traffic control system, faces $627 million in cuts during the current budget year under sequestration. Staff - including safety inspectors and air traffic controllers - would be furloughed by at least one day and up to two days per pay period, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta wrote in a Feb. 11 letter to agency employees.


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