Maryland May Feel Pinch as Sequestration Unfolds

As reported in the Washington Post, President Obama will sign the sequester into law this week, enacting cuts to many social programs that provide funding to county governments.  As reported by the Post, the sequester cuts more than $25 billion from discretionary spending in the next six months, a 5 percent reduction.  A White House fact sheet, previously released, describes the predicted effect of the cuts on Maryland.

In Maryland, a poll conducted by Goucher College found that a  majority of Marylanders are concerned about the sequester, even if they feel it will not impact them personally.  Earlier in the year, Maryland’s Department of Budget and Management wrote a memo with a breakdown of how across-the-board cuts would affect Maryland’s education and social services programs.

Maryland’s Senator Mikulski has continued to be an outspoken opponent of the legislation, as reported in the Star Democrat,

“I’m opposed to the sequester. I think it’s bad policy for our county. I think it will hurt our economy,” Mikulski said. “I think it will exacerbate the fragile job situation we have, and it will affect not only government employees, but those who work in private-sector jobs because of the federal government.”

In local news, the Delmarva Now notes how Assateague Island is already planning to cut summer positions based on the law.

Assateague Island National Seashore had planned to pay a student or a retiree $15,700 to collect park fees this spring and summer, as it has done in years past. But the sequestration spending cuts that took effect March 1 have changed that plan. Park officials now say they will leave the position unfilled, shorten the hours they accept fees and accept an estimated loss of $70,000.

As reported in the Baltimore Sun, the Howard County Housing Commission has been informed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that it will immediately see a six percent cut in subsidy funding for the program, also known as Section 8.

Largely due to rising rental costs, Carbo said the commission already has closed its waiting list for housing vouchers, while ceasing to give out new vouchers once someone leaves the program. . . The county is [now] taking a look at how decreasing voucher payments could impact residents in the program. An early estimate shows that 50 percent of voucher holders could see a $75 to $100 increase in their contribution, which for some “can be significant,” [Tom] Carbo, [executive director of the Housing Commission] said.

And, The Frederick News Post describes how sequestration’s closure of a tower at the airport will impact operations and future growth.

“The tower kind of represented future opportunity for us,” [Richard] Griffin, [the city’s director of economic development] said. When corporate jets land, they need to be serviced and fueled, which can directly create jobs at the airport. . . Jet traffic also has an indirect impact on the wider community. Travelers rent cars, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and rent meeting space, he said. “In the long run, it means jobs and revenue at the airport.”

MACo will continue to track the impact of sequestration on Maryland’s counties through the Conduit Street blog.  For more information, see Conduit Street’s previous posts on sequestration.  If you have additional coverage of the sequestration issue that is relevant for Maryland’s counties, email Robin Clark at MACo.