The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Politics

March 16, 2013

Long lines, closings at parks, landmarks bring sequester home

WASHINGTON — Andy Foyil, a fifth-grade social studies teacher in Tulsa, Okla., is taking 30 students on a field trip to Washington this month. A White House tour was to be the highlight.

"Their faces just dropped," Foyil said as he described the reaction of 11-year-olds being told federal spending cuts will keep them out of America's most famous home. "The White House is always one of our hope-fors."

With spring vacations looming, popular destinations from Florida's Gulf Stream waters to California's redwood forest are now implementing mandatory spending cuts, know as sequestration, that started this month. The failure of Congress and President Barack Obama to agree on reducing the deficit triggered $85 billion in cuts by Sept. 30 that are to be split between defense and non-defense spending.

Across the nation, 54 percent of Americans polled in late February wanted Congress to delay the cuts and give the economy more time to recover, and 3 in 5 backed tax increases along with spending cuts, according to the Bloomberg News poll. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and Bradford DeLong, a University of California at Berkeley economist, in a study found increased spending would help revive growth and boost tax revenue by more than the cost of the expenditures.

With Congress and the White House deadlocked, visitors to landmarks run by the National Park Service will confront longer lines, dirtier bathrooms and closed visitor centers. Sequestration is causing federal facilities — particularly the parks — to delay maintenance, freeze hiring, trim operating hours and cancel programs for school groups.

"Visitors will see a reduction in services," Dave Uberuaga, superintendent at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, said in a March 1 email to holders of commercial use permits to operate in the park.

That means a two-hour reduction in summer hours at the park's main visitor center, longer processing times for back- country permits and extended lines to enter the park, which has an average 4.38 million visitors a year.

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