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U.S. Rep. Bill Owens.
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens.

Owens: most people will feel pain of sequester

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North Country Congressman Bill Owens says the impact of cuts at the federal prison in Ray Brook is on his mind. He says officials there will have some discretion as far as where to cut. "I'm counting on management in those circumstances," says Owens, "to make sure that they do their furloughing in such a way that they do manage this for the safety of the officers and obviously the prisoners."

Owens held a telephone press conference yesterday afternoon to discuss the impacts of the across-the-board federal cuts known as the sequester. The Democrat says the standoff in Washington may only change if the public feels some pain.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

Congressman Owens says people are fatigued and are losing interest in the budget battles in Washington. That's giving little impetus for Republicans and Democrats to strike deals.

But Owens says that could change when people start to feel the effect of five to eight percent cuts at all federal agencies.

"Meals on wheels may be cut. You have programs for schools that may be cut. You will have civilian employees furloughed. You will have military spending cut in terms of operations and maintenance. That means contractors will lose contracts, will be paid less for those contracts. So all of those have spin-off effects. There's really been no very specific impact on people. I think when that starts to happen, I think people will re-engage."

And as they do, he's hoping they will lead Congress towards what's known as a grand bargain to draw down spending by a trillion dollars over 10 years.

"I think we do need a big deal. I think we need a deal that addresses spending but also addresses revenue, and I think that has to be accomplished by a revamp of the Internal Revenue code. But we do need to get our arms around spending and begin to bend that curve, so it's going in the other direction."

Owens had few new details about how the sequester cuts would affect the North Country. He said the real impacts will kick in over the next 30 to 60 days.

Owens said some 5,000 civilian employees would be affected by furloughs at Fort Drum. He said the cuts would hit agricultural programs, like help for conservation and organics, as with all federal programs. As for the Farm Bill that Congress failed to pass last year?

"No action whatsoever on the Farm Bill."


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