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As budget deadline looms, Utah federal workers faced with furloughs

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Mar 19th, 2013 @ 8:19am

OGDEN — Even if Congress meets the March 27 deadline to find an alternative before the current stopgap budget expires, many Hill Air Force Base workers will still be faced with furloughs.

Congress is expected to pass another stopgap budget by the week's end, but it's not expected to bring much relief when it comes to the automatic spending cuts that are going into place.

The challenge exists in Congress for both the House and Senate versions of the stopgap budget. When the budget is approved, $85 million in automatic spending cuts get locked into place.

The House version gives the Department of Defense some flexibility in the form of being able to handle its spending issues in its own way, but as things stand right now defense is the target of half of the automatic spending cuts.

The majority of the Department of Defense's 800,000 civilian employees are expected to get furlough notifications. Starting in April, furloughed workers would lose a day of work and pay per week. Each worker would see up to 22 furlough days in total.

Hill Air Force Base has over 11,000 civilian employees, many of which have lost hope that the furloughs can be staved off. All workers will be furloughed which could impact what gets done at the base.

Monty Lewis, an electrician, said it could affect whether he will be able to return fighter jets to Afghanistan.

The hope was that the Department of Defense would be able to find enough cuts in other places to avoid these sweeping furloughs. But we really don't know what's going to happen now.

–Melissa Subbotin, spokeswoman for Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah

"We need to make a good living too," Lewis said. "We work hard for our money; I wish people would realize that."

The cuts will hit Utah hard, as the state stands to lose $16 million in Army base operation funding and $2 million in Air Force operations.

A spokeswoman for the office of Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said it's too early to say what the impacts will be to federal furloughs.

"We haven't seen the Senate version yet," said Melissa Subbotin, the spokeswoman said in an interview with the Standard Examiner. "So until then, everything is completely in limbo."

Bishop voted for the original bill passed by the House in hope it would lessen furloughs, but as the deadline creeps closer, it's impossible to see what will happen.

"The hope was that the Department of Defense would be able to find enough cuts in other places to avoid these sweeping furloughs," Subbotin said. "But we really don't know what's going to happen now."

The furloughs will not only affect Hill Air Force Base workers in Utah, but other federal workers as well, including thousands of IRS workers.

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