Is the sequester all that bad for states?

Tomorrow, March 1, 2013, the dreaded and overly dramatized sequester will occur.

President Obama has called the sequester a “meat-clever approach” to cutting the budget. News reports and the president have been telling us that the TSA will shrink and  result in longer airport lines this summer, national parks will close down some of their campgrounds, and the military will be crippled. Further, he has been traveling the states saying that essential state services will also be cut, such as education or law enforcement.

The sequester has forced us to look at government spending a little bit closer to discern the myths from the facts. The good news is that when we dig in, we find these four facts to be true:

  1. States should not depend upon federal dollars to provide essential services, such as education and public safety.
  2. Sequestration will only cut 2.4 percent of a $3.6 trillion budget. Even with the cuts, total spending in 2013 will exceed what was spent in 2012.
  3. The President knew that sequestration was coming, and he has had the opportunity to work with Congress to cut other non-essential spending in lieu of what he now calls the “meat-clever approach.”
  4. Even after the defense cuts, we will be spending more on the military now than during the height of the Cold War.


Nobody wants essential services cut, but the hard truth is that the federal government should not be holding the purse strings for any of these services to begin with. Education and public safety should be funded and managed at the state level.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation reported that in January the Texas House of Representatives convened the Committee on Texas Response to Federal Sequestration to prepare for the cuts. After listing the various state programs that might feel the impact of federal budget cuts, the committee concluded its report with this warning about “becoming too dependent on the federal government”:

“The situation we find ourselves in with sequestration should serve as a cautionary tale to consider carefully how much we expand programs on the state level utilizing federal dollars. As recent events demonstrate, the federal government could pull funding at any time and Texas would be left to deal with the ramifications.” Why the Sequester Won’t Be So Bad for Texas

Given the massive national debt, it is more important now than ever for states to take control of their fiscal houses. It’s just common sense– something that Washington politicians know very little about.