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Elimination of infrastructure support: Is that what voters meant in November?

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While the $1.049 trillion federal budget legislation, set for a House vote April 13, with a Senate vote to follow, brings a reprieve from some of the draconian program and infrastructure cuts, it is only temporary.The measure would fund agencies only through the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, replacing stopgap measures to keep the government in business. But the battles over cutting/eliminating many programs that touch the lives of millions of people are by no means over.

Be careful what you wish for, the old adage goes, because you may just get it.

The following, reprinted from the newsletter of the Delta Council, cites just a small sampling of what can result from the single-minded, my-way-or-the-highway approach that characterizes much of Washington these days:

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“When voters sent the message to reduce spending in November, most assumed that reductions of entitlement and defense spending, which represent 85 percent of the federal budget, would share in the cuts levied across government programs.

“Instead, what cities, counties, airports, state departments of transportation, universities, community colleges, ports, harbors, rural health care services, and private businesses/citizens that rely on these major infrastructure projects, are discovering is that the victim is ‘us’.

“‘All of us feel that spending reductions in all of government must be a priority,’” says Cass Pennington, president of the Delta Council. ‘But to eliminate or disproportionately levy cuts on some federal accounts in favor of others is disingenuous and really a deceptive way to go about the business of deficit reduction.’

“Delta Council has been very public about its distaste and disappointment about the manner in which the Congress is going about what the organization terms, ‘stealth rhetoric aimed at making poison pill cuts’ in basic infrastructure, which are crippling to rural America.

“‘At the same time the Congress is stomping its foot about cutting the size of government, those who are seasoned veterans of the process readily admit that the total elimination of congressional directives (earmarks) will not be any more than a political statement — and certainly not an honest or meaningful attempt to reduce the deficit,’ Pennington says.

“‘The Mississippi River channel maintenance for the inland waterway ports of Vicksburg, Greenville and Rosedale will be stopped, and therefore, commerce will be slowed for inbound and outbound tonnage,’ says Tommy Hart, Greenville port director. ‘The costs associated with less channel maintenance are borne in less-than-capacity or smaller loadings, and those losses will surely be passed on in higher transportation costs for agriculture, steel, and chemicals that are our primary loadings at Delta ports.’

“Other vital infrastructure cuts that will suffer elimination or drastic reductions include Pell Grants, which over 60 percent of Delta State University (DSU)  students utilize, to some extent, to pay for school tuition and books; health care services for the working uninsured provided by Delta Health Alliance; workforce training programs at the DSU Capps Center; I-69 and other new federal road construction projects; South Delta Environmental Education Center; DSU nursing programs and educational leadership Programs; Mississippi River levee maintenance; operations and maintenance of Yazoo Basin lakes (Arkabutla, Sardis, Enid and Grenada);  water quality improvement projects on Steele Bayou; Delta Data Center and Southern Rural Development Center; aquaculture research at the Delta Research and Extension Center at Stoneville; and channel enlargement/lake drawdown features of the Upper Yazoo flood protection project.”

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A House vote on the $1.049 trillion budget legislation is set for  April 13, with a Senate vote to follow. Even if it is finally approved, the measure only funds the government through the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, replacing stopgap funding to keep things running through April 14.

Then, yet another wrangle commences about the budget for the next fiscal year. 

And in a country with an infrastructure that is already crumbling, and which the American Society of Civil Engineers has given a near-failing grade of D, the next round may be even more traumatic.

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