Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 6, 2013

Sequester cuts would affect airport, tourists, students

TRAVERSE CITY — Air traffic controllers at Cherry Capital Airport, a handful of the neediest college students and summer tourists will feel the pinch of the federal sequester cuts.

Federal lawmakers originally wrote mandatory budget cuts in to the 2011 Budget Control Act as a ploy to force Republican and Democrats to agree on a national deficit reduction plan.

But Congress and the president failed to reach a bipartisan debt deal. Across-the-board cuts intended to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion over nine years began March 1.

Airline travelers might see longer lines and delays at major airports due to mandatory furloughs. At Cherry Capital Airport, air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration staff must also take forced, unpaid days off, said Kevin Klein, airport director.

“But the number of bodies up in the tower really is not changing,” Klein said.

Administrative staff will help cover tower shifts and security lines to make up for the furloughs.

“Hopefully our political officials will get it together and get this fixed,” Klein said.

At Northwestern Michigan College, the sequester will hike loan fees for students borrowing money for next year by a small amount, said Pam Palermo, director of financial aid.

The biggest effect for students will be $10,000 trimmed from work study funds and another $10,000 cut from the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.

The amount isn’t huge, she said, but it hurts the “neediest of the neediest.”

Traverse City Area Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Cousins said local districts don’t expect federal funding cuts until July 1.

But then the district stands to lose grants that help disabled and disadvantaged students.

Northern lower Michigan’s summer tourism industry could feel some of the worst impacts of the mandatory spending cuts.

Sequestration means a shorter operating season at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, said Tom Ulrich, the park’s deputy superintendent.

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