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Sequestration Frustration

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Updated: 2/28/2013 6:30 P.M.

With the next meeting between the Obama administration and Congress on the matter not taking place until Friday, congressional Republicans such as Ohio Congressman Bill Johnson insist that the massive spending cuts need not have happened.

"We passed legislation twice that would have offset the sequester with responsible spending cuts, eliminating redundancy and duplication from the federal government," the 6th District representative said Thursday in a satellite interview. "Because at the time the sequester was passed...again, it was the president's idea, it came from the White House...they would not consider, at that time, responsible spending cuts."

In limbo are agencies like the Parkersburg Housing Authority which provide rent assistance to thousands of families. Its executive director, D.J. Haynes, says it hopes to avoid terminating anyone's assistance.

"We hope to meet the funding cuts through attrition, as families drop off the program and no longer need housing assistance," she says. "However, if funding is no longer sufficient, the housing authority may have to take drastic measures such as reducing a family's rental assistance."

Haynes also is president of the West Virginia Association of Housing Agencies, and says the effects could be more serious in other parts of the Mountain State.

"There may be some housing authorites that may close, because they don't have the administrative fees to operate the program. They may be turning their housing vouchers over to HUD or to other housing authorities to administer those."

While the white house in recent days has outlined sequestration-related spending reductions, Republicans in Congress say they gave in back in January to his demand for more revenue.

"The president got his tax increase...he's already got it," said Rep. Johnson. "Why won't he come to the table and talk about spending cuts?

Johnson says congress next week may take up a continuing funding resolution-but aimed only at the defense department.

That vote, he says, could come on Tuesday.

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Updated: 2/27/2013 6:40 P.M

From food safety to job training-those are among the areas where Senator Joe Manchin says West Virginians will be hurt if sequestration cuts take place Friday.

The senator believes that, even if Congress works out a last-minute deal to stop those planned spending cuts...he doubts it will be a long-term solution.

"I do not see anything on the table that will go past one year, and I think it's ridiculous," Manchin said in an interview with WTAP Wednesday. "We keep kicking the can down the road, and the leadership is not taking any steps to fix it. I'm at odds with the leadership, both Democrat and Republican. It's time to fix the long-term problem we have."

Sen. Manchin argues federal agencies should be asked to come up with spending reductions within their own departments, rather than the across-the-board cuts due to take effect Friday.

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These should be good times for the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport.
Passenger travel was up last year, and the airport recently refinanced its debt with a new bank. But it's now facing a new set of problems, due to the much-discussed possible effects of sequestration.

"Just as you think you're getting your act together and the airport is stepping up and carrying its own weight, something like this jerks the rug out from under us," Airport Manager Terry Moore said Monday.

And Moore says that could come in a variety of ways, including defense spending cuts, which could affect local military air traffic, which use airport services such as fuel and its restaurant.

"If there's a reduction in (Essential Air Service) funding, that can affect the airline," he adds. "If there is a reduction in (Transportation Security Administration) presence or TSA contracts, that would create some unemployment in the area, but it would also affect us. They rent some space from the airport. If that contract was voided, that would be a $31,000 impact on the airport in a year's time."

One impact that's uncertain involves the tower, Which is a function not of the airport but of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Moore understands it is a symbol of safety for passengers. But a pilot we spoke to says a lot of fliers usually don't make use of it.

"It has to do with the weather," says Jim Ryan, a local pilot and flight instructor. "Visual Flight Rules, see and be seen, rather than Instrument Flight Rules, and that's when you need the towers and the controllers and the control centers with radar to keep track of you across the country. But VFR, you don't have to be talking to anybody."

The closing of the tower wouldn't by itself ground flights, but Moore admits passengers concerned about safety might choose other methods of transportation, or to fly from airports whose towers are still in use.

Moore notes that Beckley's airport currently is the only one in West Virginia without an air traffic control tower, and commercial flights operate from that location.

As it stands now, five airports in West Virginia stand to have their towers closed by April 1. The FAA says air traffic control towers in Charleston and Morgantown would remain open, but overnight shifts would be eliminated.


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