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Missouri, Illinois, stand to lose more than $100 million each if federal cuts go through

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 24, 2013 - On Sunday night, the White House issued state-by-state projections of the fallout of the automatic budget cuts set to go into effect on Friday, as part of President Barack Obama’s campaign against sequestration.

For Missouri and Illinois, the deepest financial pain would involve the mandated trims in military spending and aid to education.

Moreover, in both states, tens of thousands of residents also would be affected by cuts in various programs, from those assisting poor children to others boosting law enforcement.

For both states, the losses could be well over $100 million apiece — illustrating how much federal money regularly flows to each of the 50 states for dozens of programs that advocates say are crucial for young and old.

Critics contend that the president is exaggerating the impact of sequestration (or trying to shift the blame for its creation).  Still, the numbers are likely to touch off reactions from the states’ governors — many of whom are in Washington for this week’s annual gathering of the National Governors Association.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is among them.

(UPDATE) In a statement Monday, the governor said, "In Missouri, we work together to balance budgets and cut spending -- and that's what needs to get done in Washington." (End update)

The sequester cuts would not affect any of the entitlement programs -- notably Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security -- because they were specifically exempted during the 2011 negotiations that led to the deal cut by both parties, part of a larger agreement that resulted in an increase to the debt ceiling.

According to the White House’s estimates, about 8,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed in Missouri, "reducing gross pay by around $40.3 million in total."

In Illinois, the number would be 14,000 civilian Department of Defense employees furloughed, with gross pay cut by about $83.5 million.

Those numbers reflect, in part, the fact that Missouri is home of the Army’s Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base. Illinois’ defense operations include Scott Air Force base near Belleville.

Overall, the White House says, Missouri would see funding for the Army's operations trimmed by about $56 million plus another $14 million cut in Air Force operations.

In Illinois, Air Force operations would be cut by about $7 million and Army funding by about $19 million.

As for education, the report says that "Missouri will lose approximately $11.9 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 160 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 17,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 60 fewer schools would receive funding."

The state also would lose about $10.8 million that goes for “about 130 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.”

In more populous Illinois, the losses in education funding are even more dramatic: about $33.4 million trimmed from primary and secondary education, "putting around 460 teacher and aide jobs at risk."

About 120 fewer schools would receive federal funding, cutting help to about 39,000 students.

About 5,930 poor Illinois students seeking to go to college, and just over 2,000 counterparts in Missouri, would be affected by cuts in the states’ federal allocations for aid and work-study jobs.

(UPDATE) Reacting to the possible effect on Missouri schools, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released this statement:

“The Department is very concerned about the impact of sequestration on Missouri schools,” said Deputy Commissioner of Financial and Administrative Services Ron Lankford. “We know that due to reductions in teaching and support staff, some students will lose access to vital services such as special education.

"The biggest impacts will be to our poorest districts that must rely heavily on federal support. We urge our lawmakers to find a solution that does not impact our nation’s most important investment in our future.”

Commissioner Chris Nicastro wrote the state's congressmena letter last month detailing the impact on Missouri schools.

Mary Fergus, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education, said if the cuts occur, they would be another financial blow to the state's schools.

"We are still hopeful that something will occur this week to prevent these cuts," she said. "We know that these cuts would be in addition to cuts that districts have already sustained from local revenue sources as well as $861 million since 2009 at the state level."

She noted that the state has been informing districts since last year about the effect of possible cuts and has established a website with updated information. (End update)

The White House also estimates that about 2,700 poor children in Illinois, and 1,200 in Missouri, would lose access to Head Start and Early Head Start services, which provide early childhood education.

Millions of dollars in additional federal money also would be at risk.

2013 cuts in Missouri and Illinois:

Army & Air Force, Missouri $70 million Army base operations will be cut by about $56 million and Air Force operations will lose about $14 million. Illinois $26 million Army base operations will be cut by about $19 million, while Air Force operations would lose $7 million

Teachers Missouri $11.9 million. Primary and secondary education could lose 160 teacher and aide jobs, serving 60 fewer schools and 17,000 fewer students. Illinois $33.4 million. 460 teacher and aide jobs are at risk in Illinois. The cuts could affect 39,000 students at 120 schools.

Environment Missouri $4.9 million. Programs for the control of hazardous waste and pesticide pollution as well as clean air and water cut by $3.7 million. Fish and wildlife protection could lose $1.2 million in grant funding. Illinois, $7.4 million. Pollution control programs, including pesticide and hazardous waste, could would be cut by about $6.4 million. Fish and wildlife protection grants could be reduced by as much as $974,000

Public Health, Missouri $2.8 million: Substance abuse prevention and treatment programs will lose about $1.3 million in grants. Threat-response programs, such as those for infectious diseases, natural disasters and biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological events, would lose $572,000. Meals for seniors programs would be cut by $419,000. The department of Health and Senior Services would lose $211,000 for HIV testing. Funding for vaccinations for children would be cut by $171,000. Missouri could lose $127,000 to provide services to victims of domestic violence.

Illinois $6 million In Illinois, substance abuse prevention and treatment programs would be cut by $3.5 million. Threat-response programs will lose $968,000. Programs that provide meals to seniors will be cut by $764,000. HIV testing provided by the Illinois State Department of Public Health would be cut by $186,000. Funding for childhood vaccinations would be reduced by about $357,000. Illinois could lose $273,000 in domestic violence victims' services funds.

Job Search Assistance, Missouri: $758,000. The number of unemployed people receiving help could drop by more than 25,000. Illinois $1.4 million. More than 50,000 people in Illinois who are seeking jobs could lose access to assistance.

Read the White House's report on Missouri here (PDF), and Illinois (PDF).

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.