By JOHN RABY
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) â¿¿ Automatic federal budget cuts set to take effect Friday would mean thousands of temporary layoffs for National Guard and civilian defense workers in West Virginia, along with reduced funding for programs such as education, the environment, and public health and safety, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said Tuesday.
The West Virginia Democrat said on a conference call that he's discouraged Congress hasn't reached a long-term, bipartisan compromise, but he's still "very hopeful" a deal can be completed before month's end.
Manchin called the proposed widespread cuts "ludicrous."
"I just think there's a smarter way to do it," he said. "Our safety, our commitment to our children and seniors, and our investment in our economic future are all in jeopardy."
Manchin said 2,000 Department of Defense civilian employees in the state would be furloughed if the cuts occur. And 56 members of the West Virginia National Guard would be laid off immediately, while more than 900 state Guard members would have shorter work weeks.
He said the cuts would hit military installations and units across West Virginia, including "an unknown but significant" funding reduction at Camp Dawson, the National Guard's training facility in Kingwood.
And in a state that has the second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation, Manchin said the state would lose $430,000 in grants to prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in 600 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. In addition, the loss of $96,000 in justice assistance grants would curtail funding for state programs involving law enforcement, drug treatment and enforcement, prosecution and court services.
Last week, White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske attended seminars in Huntington and Charleston on state efforts to fight prescription drug abuse. He said the cuts across agencies, including funding for drug task forces that are widely used in West Virginia, have the potential to bring "some very significant problems."