By Lesley Weidenbener
INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence announced Monday that the state will put 1,000 members of the Indiana National Guard on unpaid furloughs to deal with federal spending cuts.
The administration will also cut some unemployment benefits by nearly 11 percent but will continue to provide full benefits to recipients of several other federally-funded programs.
The decisions are part of the state’s plan to deal with federal cuts that are part of sequestration, which are forced budget cuts that began on Friday when Congress did not make a deal to prevent them.
“Thanks to Indiana’s strong fiscal position and careful management, the state will be able to manage the budget cuts with minimal impact to Hoosiers,” Chris Atkins, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement.
The National Guard furloughs will impact full time Army and Air National Guard technician. They’ll be essentially laid off for one day each week from the end of April through September. The National Guard also will hold off on awarding $30 million in military construction projects at Terre Haute and South Bend for Fiscal Year 2013.
The guard will implement changes to training methods and will stagger furloughs to reduce training costs and ensure that mission requirements are still met.
The Pence administration said it is “making every effort to absorb the cuts administratively wherever possible, to minimize the impact on programs and services Hoosiers rely on.” It provide the following examples:
• The sequestration cut will eliminate $4.1 million in food funds from the state’s Women Infants and Children program. Due to Indiana’s low transportation cost, administrative cuts of $1.6 million and a declining WIC caseload, Indiana will continue to provide full benefits to all recipients.
• The Department of Workforce Development will see funding for job seeker services reduced by $1.1 million and GED remediation cut by $515,000. DWD will mitigate the impact of these cuts completely with a discounted contract extension and a performance-based funding model.
•The Department of Labor will lose some federal matching dollars for the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration and INSafe, but can minimize the cuts with other funding sources. In addition, DOL is implementing new technologies later this year to increase efficiency and minimize personnel redundancy. The department expects significant cost savings that will mitigate any effects of sequestration.
Officials said the federal unemployment benefits cuts won’t be mitigated by the state. Per instruction from the U.S. Department of Labor, the benefits to 33,000 Hoosiers – those who are on the federal extension of unemployment, not state benefits – will be reduced by 10.7 percent beginning March 31.
Several state agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Family and Social Services Administration, and the State Department of Health have not received guidance from the federal government about how the cuts will be administered, state officials said. The agencies have put together their best estimates on the impact and are preparing to handle the cuts with as little impact on services and programs as possible.
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Environmental Management, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Revenue, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Veterans Affairs will see either no impact or minimal impact that can readily be absorbed by the agency.
Lesley Weidenbener is the managing editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.