The money question: Utah tries to make sense of sequestration

Published: Friday, Feb. 22 2013 9:10 p.m. MST

"It would certainly be tough for a lot of people. We'd encourage those to ring those phones off the hook and make the impact be heard where it ought to be, in DC."

Such a delay, he added, would give workers time to get their financial plans in order and perhaps qualify for unemployment because of the protracted absence from work.

Tingey, like other Hill workers, complained that the ax is falling squarely on the shoulders of the "little guy" when the budget scissors could be more appropriately aimed elsewhere. The base, one employee said, could eliminate perks like receiving paid time off for fitness or social events that build workers' morale and get more bang for its buck by choosing vendors that don't over inflate prices for routine office equipment.

"Rather than fight with the Secretary of Defense or with contractors, they come after the civilian pay," Tingey said. "It just seems to be overwhelming and continuous."

The result, he said, is that milestone life events are being put on hold, with everyone living under the glare of an uncertain future.

For Utah's other military groups and installations, the same uncertainty and angst continues to grow as the countdown inches closer to the sequester.

Lt. Col. Hank McIntyre of the Utah National Guard said the organization is bracing for a $33 million cut and furloughs as well.

Those cuts could ultimately affect the ability of the guard to carry out its mission in the state.

With the necessary cutbacks in training would come a diminished "readiness" when the guard is called up to assist in local disasters, McIntyre said.

"It doesn't just affect the members of the guard and the guards' families, it affects the state's ability to respond to an emergency if these cuts go through," McIntyre said. "It's not a pretty picture."

The airports

 U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood warned Friday that the $600 million in cuts that would happen to the Federal Aviation Administration could cripple the movement of freight and people in this country.

His warnings, delivered during a press conference at the White House, were accompanied by a "hit list" posted on the agency's website detailing which airports across the country could have air traffic control towers shut down.  The result was a media frenzy reporting that entire airports would be shuttered.

Two on that list are in Utah — Provo's airport and the Ogden-Hinckley Airport — both of which offer commercial flights via Allegiant Air.

In Ogden, airport manager Royal Eccles isn't buying into the scare and emphasized that an air traffic control tower closure is not an airport closure at all.

Such a closure would switch the operational mode of the airport to an uncontrolled air space — just like at the St. George, Logan and Brigham City airports.

"You have to state where you are and what your intentions are."

Eccles said that the idea of shutting down certain air traffic control towers at regional airports — part of the national transportation system — doesn't make sense.

"It's like a city trying to save money by pulling out the stop signs and turning off the traffic signals. If you really want to shut down America, remember what happened after 9-11 when they took all the airplanes out of the sky. It's all about fear."

The pending budget cutbacks also could spell trouble for Utah's five national parks, with freezes on hiring, curtailing hours at visitor centers and even compromising visitor safety because  fewer park rangers would be available for patrol.

Meals on Wheels

Another potential victim of cuts, according to the list put out by the White House, is Meals on Wheels, which could see four million less deliveries to home-bound seniors across the country.

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