Days after the
And the federal funding cuts that U.S. education officials say would have the most immediate impact on public schools nationwide would trim only about $440,000 from Maryland districts — less than 1 percent of the combined operating budgets of the systems that receive it.
After weeks of dire warnings about the economic impact of the $85 billion in cuts known as the
The time to make that case is short. The bill that funds the federal government expires later this month. Lawmakers have until March 27 to agree on an extension before the government shuts down.
The problem for Democrats, analysts say, is that the worst effects of sequestration will not likely hit until a month after the deadline.
"If nothing terrible happens — at least not yet — from [the Republican] point of view I think it's a very big win," said Don Kettl, dean of the school of public policy at the University of Maryland,
President Barack Obama says he intends to rely on pressure from a public that he believes won't stand for longer lines at airports, fewer public safety grants and millions less for hospitals. Sequestration officially began late Friday night.
Just how quickly and intensely the effects are felt in states such as Maryland — where 20 percent of the economy is tied to federal spending — will play heavily into the national debate over whether sequestration is replaced or is here to stay. So far neither the public nor the financial markets appears to be shaken.
A small number of federal agencies have begun to distribute furlough notices. The
The Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office has 142 full-time employees, down from 161 at full strength.
But the plans for several federal agencies based in Maryland are less certain. Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin told employees last week that "we are hopeful the funds available to us will allow us to operate without furloughs." The Woodlawn-based agency employs 11,800 people in the state.
Sen. Ben Cardin said some agencies might be able to shoulder the cuts without furloughs, but many others will not. He said he expects that the
Uniformed military personnel, who are exempted from furloughs, will be paid. But Cardin said they might not receive the same level of training.
"There's going to be people raising some real questions about what's going on," the Maryland Democrat said in an interview.
He acknowledged that lawmakers opposed to sequestration "might have problems getting everyone's attention" immediately. But he predicted that "after a couple more weeks" the problems would be more pronounced.
"People are going to get hurt," Cardin said.
Sequestration is the result of the messy 2011 agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling. The cuts were designed to be so painful that they would force Republicans and Democrats to craft a deficit-reduction deal to avoid them.
That never happened.
For Maryland, the stakes are particularly high. The state is home to more than 314,000 federal employees, according to Census figures. The
Some of those contractors have said their biggest concern is the uncertainty over what Congress will do. Rogers Wells, a vice president for
The Oregon-based company, which operates a 100-employee plant in Elkridge, makes thermal imaging and other sensing devices for the Pentagon and the
"In this period of uncertainty, we just need to make sure that we're financially responsible and that we don't overextend ourselves," Wells said at an event last week with O'Malley.
But despite the budget cuts the plant continues to hire.
For weeks it appeared the best chance to address sequestration would come at the end of March, when the government's current stop-gap budget runs out of money. Schools, businesses and federal agencies indicated they could continue to operate without significant changes during March in the hope that cuts would be reversed or mitigated in April.
But Republicans who control the
Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland's only Republican in Congress, said he supports that position, along with giving the president more flexibility on where defense cuts should fall.
The Cockeysville lawmaker said he is concerned the administration will chose to make the reductions as painful as possible to score political points.
"It all depends on how the president implements the cuts," Harris said in an interview. "If he chooses to cut teachers … instead of cutting free cell phones, then we're going to have problems."
The Obama administration has said the law leaves little room to prioritize where to cut. With few exceptions, reductions must be distributed evenly across funds and federal programs.