Sequester coming, Utah facing ‘butt-biting time’

Posted at 5:08 PM, Feb 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-01 00:16:49-05

SALT LAKE CITY - As the federal government goes into the uncharted territory known as "sequestration," it's clear Utah will not be immune from the effects of severe budget cuts.

Governor Gary Herbert turned a colorful phrase to describe what he feels like he predicted long ago.

"We always have said if we continue to do this it's going to come back and bite us in the butt, and it's butt-biting time right now," he said on Thursday.

Sequestration is a process created by Congress and President Obama as a compromise in the 2011 debate over raising the federal debt ceiling. At the time, the idea was to create such a severe outcome down the road that the two sides would have to reach a compromise before drastic and obligatory cuts they called sequestration would go into effect.

The cuts impact domestic social programs and military spending, putting aside entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. They also protected military pay and student Pell Grants out of the deal.

In Utah, Hill Air Force Base represents the largest concentration of federal employees who will face furloughs if the sequestration continues. That means between 14 and 20 thousand civilian employees around the base will see a 20 percent drop in their income by being asked either to work shorter days or fewer days.

State Senator Jerry Stevenson represents some of the area surrounding Hill. He says he has a number of friends who will face the cuts.

Stevenson also owns a nursery near the Base. He says as a business owner, he's worried about the impact of so many residents losing their spending money.

"We hope it doesn't impact us heavily but you know we're still trying to recover from a 4 year recession," Stevenson said.

Utah's public research universities, the University of Utah and Utah State University, will also see significant impacts.

The two institutions bring in about 400 million dollars in federal research grants annually.

Dave Buhler, Director of Utah's Board of Regents said, "We estimate if it goes through and it sticks, it would be about a 38 million dollar loss for Utah higher education mostly in research grants and contracts."