Madison Mayor Paul Soglin spoke out Monday against the federal sequester, arguing in a press conference the massive federal spending cuts put in place after Congress did not reach a compromise could affect nearly 1,000 University of Wisconsin System students.
The sequester is set to cut $85 million in spending nationwide and in Madison this could mean decreased funding for small businesses, food safety and education, Soglin said. The effects of the sequester could also include cuts in loan guarantees for small businesses by about $900 million nationally and 2,100 fewer food inspections would occur, which Soglin said would be a threat to public health.
“Private businesses have started to ramp down and make decisions to lay off staff or not expand their operations,” Soglin said. “Responsible investment leads to private investment and that in turn is what grows the economy.”
The state, the city and UW System will be greatly impacted by the sequester, Soglin said. He said $8.5 million will be cut from Wisconsin primary and secondary schools, $10.1 million will be cut from education for children who have disabilities in Wisconsin and early education programs for 900 students will be eliminated.
He also said the UW System will be affected by cutting aid to 550 low income college students in Wisconsin and removing funding for 420 work study jobs.
Work study is a job for students where the government pays half the student employees’ wages and the employer pays the other half.
Alyssa Sage, an information specialist at UW’s Office of Student Financial Aid, said many areas of campus hire work study students and because the jobs are on campus, the employers work with students to make sure they have enough time allocated to study and are given decreased hours around exams.
Tim Putzier, an administrator at UW’s work study program, said the sequester is going to cause some financial aid for students to be diminished. He said the White House is predicting 420 work study jobs will be cut across the UW System.
“On the Madison campus the impact will not be huge,” he said. “The 420 jobs will be cut from across the UW system. But if you”re one of the 420 it’s not good news.”
Putzier said UW currently has 4,000 students in the program and every UW System school has a work study program.
Sarah Blechl, a junior at UW, said she has benefited from her work study job at the Financial Aid Office.
“You learn new things and can always go to coworkers,” she said. “It’s the best because you get a job…so you can pay for college.”
Soglin said he hopes Democrats and Republicans are able to work together in Congress to solve the problems created by the sequester and lessen its impact on the people of Wisconsin.
He also said the sequester includes “concerning” cuts to funds to help 3,000 Madison residents with housing.
Protections for clean air, clean water, fish and wildlife could also see their funding cut down in Wisconsin, along with the military, job search assistance, vaccines for children and other public health measures, Soglin said. Funds to help victims of domestic abuse and provide meals to seniors could also be decreased.
“Austerity, in the sense of strangling government and drowning it in a bathtub, is a failed policy,” Soglin said. “It has been refuted by what we know about the history of this country.”