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Illinoisans Brace For Federal Cuts, Furloughs

By CARLA K. JOHNSON and JIM SUHR

CHICAGO (AP) â¿¿ A disabled woman in Crescent City fears losing her transportation. A safety chief at Scott Air Force Base already has canceled a vacation. A Chicago court clerk worries he'll have to lock the doors of his federal courthouse a full day a week.

Uncertainty abounds about what could happen in Illinois if federal lawmakers in Washington don't do something to avert automatic budget cuts set to kick in Friday.

The White House has warned of draconian measures if the cuts take effect; critics say President Barack Obama's administration is using sky-is-falling scare tactics to score political points against Republican lawmakers. Some of the cuts would be mere fractions of total agency budgets.

Gov. Pat Quinn's aides say they are concerned but hopeful for a deal in Washington. The financially strapped state has little ability to fill the gaps. So state officials and social service agencies are bracing for what's to come, and people already are making contingency plans and adjustments in their lives amid genuine anxiety.

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MILITARY

One of the hardest hit by the budget cuts could be the Scott Air Force Base, an installation just east of St. Louis that's the region's third-biggest employer with 13,000 employees.

The cuts could mean 4,500 of the site's 5,000 civilian workers must take 22 days of unpaid furloughs through the end of the fiscal year, amounting to a 20-percent pay cut, spokeswoman Karen Petitt said.

Marilee Reuter is among those civilian workers, along with her husband, a fellow retired Air Force veteran who helps plan midair refueling missions. A deputy safety chief, Reuter said she and her husband already scuttled a planned vacation to Hawaii. Dining out and home improvement "all are going to be put on hold," and the couple with a mortgage and a car payment may have to dip into savings and abandon investing in their 401(k) retirement accounts.

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