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Local Lawmakers Warn Of Budget Cuts If Deal Not Reached In Washington By Friday

Anger Grows Over 9/11 Zadroga Program Losing As Much As 10 Percent
Rep. Bill Pascrell in Moonachie, N.J. - Feb. 25, 2013 (credit: Jim Smith / WCBS 880)

Rep. Bill Pascrell in Moonachie, N.J. – Feb. 25, 2013 (credit: Jim Smith / WCBS 880)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – As President Barack Obama urged Congress to avert sweeping across-the-board cuts with “just a little bit of compromise,” local lawmakers are concerned about what it could mean for the Tri-State Area if an agreement isn’t reached.

The $85 billion budget-cutting mechanism could affect everything from commercial flights to classrooms to meat inspections. Domestic and defense spending alike would be trimmed, leading to furloughs for hundreds of thousands of government workers and contractors.

The White House, seeking to ratchet up pressure on Congressional lawmakers, released state-by-state reports on the impact of the cuts. The White House compiled its state-by-state reports from federal agencies and its own budget office.

EXTRA: Click Here To See State-By-State Reports

In New York, the cuts would cause some 12,000 Department of Defense workers to be furloughed. In New Jersey, about 11,000 Department of Defense workers would be furloughed. Connecticut would see about 3,000 civilian Department of Defense employees furloughed.

“The military cuts are going to devastating for New York,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Monday. “A lot of the jobs to build the equipment that our men and women use when they’re in the field, we build that in New York. It’s a lot of our manufacturers that do that work.”

New York schools would lose nearly $43 million. Schools in New Jersey would lose $11.7 million. Connecticut schools would lose approximately $8.7 million in funding.

The law enforcement community will lose more than a million dollars that currently goes to prevent crimes, prosecute them and fund the courts.

Local lawmakers said the cuts would also include $3 billion in federal aid to Superstorm Sandy victims and $27 million to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation program.

“We want the American people to know this isn’t fair and it’s not right,” Gillibrand said. “When we have other victims compensation funds, none of them are being cut. This is the only one.”

“This is one of the most poignant examples of why we must work to avert the sequester,” said Sen. Charles Schumer said. “We can entirely avoid this problem if both parties agree to support a balanced deficit reduction plan that includes closing tax loopholes as well as sensible savings. But in the event that they don’t, we must work to make sure there that the burden does not fall on the national heroes who are finally receiving the help they deserve through the Zadroga Act.”

“It’s about people, it’s not about a bill,” said Joseph Zadroga on Monday, with tears running down his face.

“I can’t talk without tears coming to my eyes about this and the tears aren’t for me they aren’t for my son,” Joseph Zadroga told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer on Monday. “They’re for these first responders out there that I know are sick.”

Joseph Zadroga fought long and hard to win health benefits for 9/11 responders after his own son, NYPD Det. James Zadroga, died after working at ground zero. And he’s particularly upset that the automatic budget cuts that go into effect Friday will slash the health benefits of first responders who got sick.

“Whatever their award is, it’s going to be minus 10 percent. You’re literally taking food off the table of people who have problems putting food on the table to begin with,” first responder John Feal said.

Feal was just one of several first responders to join with local politicians to demand that Congress exempt the 9/11 health bill from the budget ax known as “sequester.”

“These cuts are real and they’re going to be painful and they are an irresponsible way to approach a budget deficit,” Sen. Gillibrand said.

“These heroes, their families, they simply deserve better,” Gillibrand added.

Feal said he’ll do whatever he can to make sure there are no cuts for 9/11 responders.

“I look forward to getting on I-95, getting in D.C., and putting my foot in some Congressional ass,” he said.

“This is a disaster. We cannot allow this to happen,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney. “We need to keep our promise that we will never forget.”

Gillibrand and Sen. Charles Schumer plan to introduce legislation to keep the program funded.

Schumer said said there’s no reason to cut the $27 million.

“The Zadroga Bill doesn’t add a dime to the deficit,” he said, noting that military veterans are exempt. “The best argument we had was that the 9/11 responders were just like our veterans.”

In New Jersey, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell is bracing Sandy victims for the possible impacts if automatic budget cuts are triggered.

“This is nothing short of a fiscal hurricane, a fiscal storm, for the victims that have already been devastated by Sandy,” he said Monday. “These damaging cuts will have a devastating impact on our ability to rebuild and recover from the storm.”

Pascrell said some 10,000 homes and small businesses could have financial aid reduced, leaving hard hit towns like Little Ferry feeling victimized again.

“It literally disgusts me that we are at this point,” said Mayor Mauro Raguseo.

Moonachie Mayor Dennis Vaccaro said Washington is playing with people’s lives.

“Politics at its worst and that’s what politics is about right now,” he said.

As for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he said he didn’t think the sky was falling because of sequestration.

“I think, number one, you don’t know what’s going to happen til Friday. Every day is a new day. There are other plans out to kick the can down the road,” he told WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb in Bay Ridge on Monday.

His Honor said that, even if it does happen, it “doesn’t overnight hurt New York much, a little bit, but it’s over a period of time when it would hurt, but that would give everybody time to adjust.”

But he did specifically mention that if the number of airplane flights is restricted immediately due to reductions in air traffic controllers, that would hurt New York very quickly.

For the past week Democrats, led by President Obama, have been pointing out what will be cut — everything from fewer firefighters and police to delays at the airports and less vaccines for children — and demanding they be replaced with tax hikes.

“At some point we have to do some governing,” the president said.

But Republicans say the president is making the cuts sound scarier than they are, the the $85 billion due to be cut this year is just 3 percent of the federal budget, CBS 2’s Kramer reported.

“My advice to the president is stop the campaigning, stop sending out your cabinet secretaries to scare the American people. Roll up your sleeves and do the work of governing,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

Congress was back in Washington on Monday from winter break, but there were been no real negotiations between Democrats and Republicans. Washington is notorious for last-minute deals, but so far there is little optimism we’ll avoid going over this latest fiscal cliff on Friday.

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