BUDGET CUTS: Sequestration Could Hurt U Of I

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A series of automatic spending cuts are set to happen on March 1, but President Obama and many Iowans say they will hurt more than help unless congress steps in.

“These cuts are not smart, they are not fair, they will hurt our economy, they will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls,” President Obama said Tuesday.

The $85-billion in cuts were part of an agreement reached last year to increase the debt ceiling. They were supposed to take effect January 1, but were delayed to give congress more time.

Once again, congress seems to be waiting until the last possible second to make a move. Republicans and Democrats are at a standstill over how to avoid the cuts they previously agreed to.

Democrats want to close tax loopholes on the oil industry and raise taxes on millionaires. Republicans say spending cuts should come before more tax hikes.

Without a deal the University of Iowa says the automatic cuts would hurt vital research for disease treatment and prevention. The university says it could lose more than $20-million in research funding next year if congress fails to act.

“The actual funds that we may lose from the sequester and the uncertainty of what funds may look like further down the road, is really damaging not just for our research but for keeping our employees employed,” Researcher Dr. John Fingert said. “We’ve been building our programs for years and years, and some of what we have been building is personnel (who) have been trained to be skilled researchers and if we lose them, then we lose years of training.”

Congress is on vacation this week for the president’s day holiday.

When they return to Washington they will have just four days to reach a deal.