The inability of Congress to reach an agreement on ending the sequester means some programs in Arkansas could suffer if mandatory spending cuts in defense and domestic programs go into effect March 1.
At an event in Little Rock Wednesday, various interest groups rallied together and encouraged lawmakers to act before it’s too late.
Chilly temperatures and freezing rain weren’t going to stop Candis Collins from voicing her concerns about looming federal cuts. She and others gathered outside Martin Luther King Magnet Elementary School in Little Rock.
“It’s freezing, I’m telling you! But this is part of our work no matter hot, 100 degree weather, snow, ice, rain,” Collins said while laughing with supporters.
Collins is the state coordinator for Americans for Tax Fairness, a group that wants to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans. She says the government should take a balanced approach when addressing fiscal challenges so the poor and middle class won’t always suffer.
“The most damaging effects of the sequester are on the middle class and we have selected an elementary school [for this rally], because we want people in Arkansas to be aware of what those cuts may do,” said Collins. “[Arkansans] should call our congressional delegation… Why are they here on recess? In my opinion, they really should be up there working.”
Budget cuts due to sequestration could negatively impact a variety of education programs. Donna Morey, the president of the Arkansas Education Association, says lawmakers in Washington need to be concerned about kids and not cuts. She says the indiscriminate spending cuts could have a devastating impact on the next generation.
“In Arkansas, over $50 million worth of cuts, a potential job loss at least 800, and over 72,000 children will be affected by educational cuts from the sequester,” Morey said.
Morey says grants to local education agencies, as well as funds for rural education, special education, preschool, Head Start, adult literacy, and other learning programs could all be threatened by pending cuts.
Morey and Collins were part of a coalition of education advocates and community activists who met with U.S. Senator Mark Pryor on Tuesday. Pryor said the sequester will probably happen and ultimately force Congress to act in a responsible manner.
Candis Collins says Arkansans have to get active and call their congressmen and senators.
“I’m kind of share the opinion that if the sequester kicks-in Americans will see [it’s downside] and then there will be an outcry from the people, because it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Collins. “[Republicans in Congress] refuse to negotiate with our president and they can’t seem to bring themselves up to the challenge of doing what’s right.”
Though she understands the concerns of some Republicans who say the sequester could help control the nation’s ballooning deficit; Collins says she agrees with President Obama that cuts should be done in a balanced way that protects programs the middle class relies on.