Editorial: Misdirection


Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 2:45 p.m.

Gov. Rick Scott has warned President Obama that plans to temporarily lay off employees of the Florida National Guard could jeopardize the state's ability to prepare for and respond to hurricanes.

Scott and two other Gulf Coast Republican governors asked Obama on Monday to exempt military technicians from furloughs that are part of budget "sequestration."

The governors' concerns may be valid, but their warnings appear to be misdirected.

The president and his administration sounded alarms about the dire consequences of sequestration long before this fiscal year's $85 billion in across-the-board, federal budget cuts began on March 1.

On the other hand, many of the governors' fellow Republicans, especially in the U.S. House, seem just fine with sequestration. Few of them expressed any concerns beforehand, or regrets afterward, about the impacts of the cuts.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees homeland security, recently told the Washington Post that the Obama administration would have difficulty persuading Congress that a balance of new revenue and budget cuts is needed to avoid another round of sequestration.

"They're going to have a hard time doing that," Duncan said, "when they had their doomsday scenario and the sky didn't fall."

It's true that many of the dire predictions did not come true. In some cases, like the planned furloughs of air-traffic controllers, Congress found programs to cut. But in other cases, the budget cuts have been as painful as expected. The furloughs at the Florida National Guard, coming during the height of hurricane season, might be among them.

Under the budget-cut scenario, about 1,000 employees of the Guard must take a furlough day each week, starting Monday of this week and continuing through Sept. 30.

Scott and the other governors, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and Mississippi's Phil Bryant, stated in their letter that, because of the layoffs, "equipment readiness ... will be increasingly degraded."

"We estimate we will require several additional days to allow our forces to perform administrative, maintenance and training tasks to prepare units to properly respond" during hurricanes and other emergencies, they said.

Scott is right to be worried about sequestration's impact on Florida's hurricane preparedness. But his concerns should have been directed at Republicans in Congress before the budget cuts were allowed to go forward.

And, with another round of sequestration possible for the next federal fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, he should join Obama in urging Congress to take a balanced approach to the next budget.

Scott should tell his fellow Republicans that, while the sky may not be falling in Washington, it'll get pretty dark over Florida if a hurricane hits.

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