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Area congressman discusses sequestration with constitutents

With the federal budget sequestration deadline only days away, Syracuse-area Cong. Dan Maffei opened the phone lines for a telephone town hall meeting Tuesday night.  Callers were concerned about the how these funding cuts will impact central New York if sequestration goes into effect March 1.

Sequestration will mean an approximately nine percent reduction in most federal spending. That's if Congress and President Barack Obama do not reach an agreement to avoid it, and that's seeming increasingly unlikely. So Democrat Rep. Dan Maffei used a telephone town hall to reach out to constituents to help explain what the cuts might mean for them.

Seven central New Yorkers got to ask questions, ranging from the impact of cuts on education, research funding and student loans to whether these are real cuts or just cuts in budget increases.  Maffei told callers he doesn't think central New York would be disproportionately affected by the cuts -- but he does worry some areas will be hit hard.

"For instance, Head Start or Early Head Start -- we'll see the cuts for that if this were to take place, about 4,300 children across the state, but we have a relatively high proportion of them," said the congressman.

Syracuse School board member Calvin Corridors was one of the callers, saying that the district will take a $1.6 million hit if sequestration goes through.  

Joining Maffei for part of the town hall was Cong. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Van Hollen is the ranking member of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, and is one of the congressional leaders involved in discussions on how to prevent sequestration.

Maffei also is worried that the sequestration is coming at a time when the economy in central New York can least afford it, so he says he would like to avoid it.  Maffei also polled questioners on certain issues, at one point asking whether they would like sequestration to take effect. Maffei says he used the telephone town hall as a way of connecting with constituents while lawmakers remain in Washington waiting to see if there can be a deal to avoid sequestration.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.