Tag Archives: sequester

Sequester Creating Crisis in Federal Criminal Justice System

A crisis is brewing in the federal judiciary that experts say could jeopardize fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
“I’ve worked in all three branches of government and the private sector,” said U.S. District Judge Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice. “I have never been involved in any organization either public or private in which the workload has so far exceeded the resources that are allotted to do that job.”
Across-the-board budget cuts of 8 percent brought on by the sequester have meant hiring freezes, unfilled positions, training and travel expenses cut for what many call an already overworked portion of federal government.
The sequester is just the latest of decades-long trends of broadening federal courts’ responsibilities yet underfunding to carry out their congressional mandate, Mattice said.
But at stake are far more than layoffs, furloughs and heavier workloads, as important as those are to the people involved. The very heart of the American judicial system could be on the line, Mattice and others said.
…”Do I have to dismiss cases if we cannot pay for defender services?” Mattice said.
Though judges, court clerks and prosecutors all feel the pinch, public defenders have it worse.
Beth Ford is the federal community defender for the eastern district. Her office represents indigent criminal defendants in federal court. The task is a constitutionally-guranteed right of citizens accused of crimes.
The looming budget, due in September, looks like a “perfect storm” for defender services, she said.
“We will have a 23 percent decrease in proposed budget funding,” Ford said.
That means this year’s already reduced annual budget of $5.8 million would decline to $4.5 million. Ford avoided furloughs and layoffs this fiscal year by foregoing 401(k) contributions to her staff. That’s not likely next year, she said.
Other defender’s offices across the nation have already begun layoffs and furloughs, she said.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said he’d met recently with district judges and U.S. Attorney Bill Killian about the problems they’re facing.
“They are making do with less and I commend them,” Fleischmann.
…Killian is down three assistant U.S. attorneys in his criminal division. The 33 remaining attorneys resolved more than 900 cases in the district spanning from the Virgina-Tennessee border to Chattanooga.
The office handles more than 1,800 ongoing cases a year among its three branches in Greeneville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.
… The district comes in at the top of per capita caseloads and prosecutions when compared to others across the United States, he added.
His criminal division attorneys average 387 hours a year of unpaid overtime each. And the eight civil division attorneys average 295 such hours.

Senate Democrats: Use Rainy Day Fund to Offset Sequester

News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – With looming sequester cuts threatening everything from Head Start programs to our military personnel, leaders in Tennessee urged Gov. Bill Haslam to use the proposed increase to the state’s rainy day fund to weather the storm.
Tennessee has $356 million in its rainy day fund, with another $100 million to be added in this year’s budget. Using that $100 million to fund vital services instead would save Tennesseans from the pain of Washington’s inaction.
“The fact that Washington is acting irresponsibly does not mean we should allow Tennesseans to suffer,” Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle said. “If this isn’t a rainy day I don’t know what is. We’re calling on the governor to reduce the impact of these cuts for the neediest of our citizens.”

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Gov Concerned About Sequester

Gov. Bill Haslam warns federal spending cuts looming at the end of this week would affect not just the state’s budget, but also Tennessee’s economy as a whole, reports WPLN.
The sequester would furlough some federal workers in places like Fort Campbell and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, potentially setting back local economies.
Haslam is careful to say he believes the federal government should spend less money, but he sees the sequester as the wrong approach, pointing to across-the-board cuts in places like Oak Ridge. They would do equal harm to projects that are needed, Haslam says, as to those he called a nice-to, but not a have-to.
“Take a workforce development program or training program – that would be cut 8 percent, just like cleaning up mercury out of the water and land that they’re in the middle of a process. And you’re gonna call the project off; the contractor who we’ve hired to do that, I guarantee you it’ll cost more to pull them off and send them back than the money you save there.”

Obama: Other Republicans Should Be Like Bill Haslam

Shunning the partisan rancor surrounding the nation’s latest budget battle, President Barack Obama on Monday praised Tennessee’s top Republican as a model for a stubborn Congress, according to Chris Carroll.
Hosting the nation’s governors at the White House, Obama singled out Gov. Bill Haslam as a flexible leader House and Senate Republicans should imitate. The mention came right after the president slammed fiscal hawks for refusing to bend on $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to begin Friday.
Nine congressional Republicans call Tennessee home and consider Haslam an important political ally. But unlike them, Obama hinted, governors know “compromise is essential to getting things done.”
“That’s how Governor Haslam balanced his budget last year in Tennessee while still investing in key areas like education for Tennessee’s kids,” Obama said. “Like the rest of us, [he knows] we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. Cutting alone is not an economic policy.”
Called “sequestration,” the automatic cuts comprise part of a 2011 deficit reduction bill. They were designed as an incentive for Congress to find a reasonable path toward eliminating $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Lawmakers failed, and the sequester could trigger as early as Friday.
Haslam was unable to respond to Obama’s compliment as planned. He was scheduled to present the Republican reaction after the president’s speech, but a “family health situation” prematurely brought Haslam home to Tennessee, according to spokesman Dave Smith.
In a statement, Smith hinted the governor doesn’t mind how the president views him.
“The governor’s style is to build consensus, and he’s done that during his time in office” Smith said, mentioning the governor’s efforts on teacher tenure and civil service reform.
Democrats support a mixed approach to avoiding sequestration. Obama’s deficit reduction plan includes $1.5 trillion in spending cuts and new revenue from closing various tax loopholes.
Many Republicans have a two-word solution: Spending cuts.

White House Lists TN Impact of Sequester

The White House on Sunday released a state-by=state listing of impact of the sequester. Here is the Tennessee press release, sent with the headline, “Impact of March 1st Cuts on Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security: Tennessee.”
White House Press release
Unless Congress acts by March 1st, a series of automatic cuts–called the sequester–will take effect that threaten hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs, and cut vital services for children, seniors,people with mental illness and our men and women in uniform. There is no question that we need to cut the deficit, but the President believes it should be done in a balanced way that protects investments that the middle class relies on. Already, the President has worked with Congress to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion, but there’s more to do. ThePresident has put forward a balanced plan to not only avoid the harmful effects of the sequester but also to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion in total. The President’s plan meets Republicans more than halfway and includes twice as many spending cuts as it does tax revenue from the wealthy…..
Unfortunately, many Republicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes so that we can protect investments that are helping grow our economy and keep our country safe. By not asking the wealthy to pay a little more, Republicans are forcing our children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction. The President is determined to cut spending and reduce the deficit in a balanced way, but he won’t stick the middle class with the bill. The President is willing to compromise, but on behalf the middle class he cannot accept a deal that undercuts their economic security. Our economy is continuing to strengthen but we cannot afford a self-inflicted wound fromnWashington. Republicans should compromise and meet the President in the middle. We cannot simply cut our way to prosperity, and if Republicans continue to insist on an unreasonable, cuts-only approach, Tennessee risks paying the price.
TENNESSEE IMPACTS
If sequestration were to take effect, some examples of the impacts on Tennessee this year alone are: