Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TOP STORY >> Pryor: Without deal, most cuts target defense

Leader executive editor

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) hopes congressional negotiators will soon agree on a deficit-reduction plan because if they don’t, automatic spending cuts approved in Congress would then kick in and slash the defense budget by at least $500 billion in the next decade.

“Fifty percent of the cuts would come out of the Department of Defense,” Pryor told the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council luncheon on Monday. “I hope they reach an agreement and we can start growing again.”

He was referring to the so-called congressional super-committee that has been negotiating on spending cuts and raising taxes. Under a previous deal between Democrats and Republicans, if no agreement is reached by next week, $1.2 trillion in cuts would kick in over the next decade starting in 2013. Spending cuts would be split between military and civilian programs.

The military cuts would be on top of $450 billion in spending reductions already under way, including civilian layoffs at the base.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Monday that if additional cuts are enacted, the Air Force would be the smallest in its 64-year history.

Pryor wants a budget deal before the Nov. 23 deadline so the military budget isn’t cut hundreds of billions of dollars. Republicans are reluctant to raise taxes, although some in the party have said they might agree to some increases to avoid huge cuts for the Pentagon and social programs.

Some Republicans in Congress say automatic cuts for the Pentagon would cripple the military, and they are talking about passing legislation to avoid those cuts if the super committee is deadlocked.

Because of the continuing standoff, Pryor said his requests for infra structure improvements at the base probably will not be approved anytime soon.

Most of the requests are earmarks that many in Congress say are not needed. They include:

– Refueling vehicle repair shop;

– Airlift squadron operation facility;

– Airmen dorm;

– Entry control facilities;

– Enlisted professional military education facility;

– Engine storage facility;

– Fuels systems maintenance hangar;

– and Avionics modernization program.

Although there’s no money for future projects right now, Pryor noted that he secured funding last year for a $16 million security forces operations facility and a flight simulator addition.

Other projects that were approved in the last five years include $4 million for an engine shop; $20 million for runway repairs and the joint education center, which was partly built with a Jacksonville sales tax.

Also, $9 million to improve the All-American Landing Zone and dining facilities; $5 million for an addition to the C-130J simulator, and $7.3 million for a child development center and improvements for the operations training facility and Hangar 280.

Pryor touted his bipartisan jobs program that stresses a more simplified tax code and tax credits for small businesses.

“The private sector needs to lead the way,” the senator said. “We need to empower small businesses to succeed.”

He wants to reduce tax rates, red tape and regulations, open new markets for American products and invest in infrastructure.

He said lower tax rates would create 2 million jobs, according to one study. Even if the true figure is close to 1 million, tax cuts are still worth doing, Pryor said.

He insisted only his infrastructure plan would cost money, while the other proposals would not only pay for themselves but benefit the economy.

He said new regulations should have a cost analysis before they are approved. Pryor also supports the production of new weaponry and ridding the federal government of thousands of buildings and vehicles..

The senator also touted new energy sources in Arkansas. In addition to natural gas in the Fayetteville Shale, he says more oil and coal can be extracted with new technology similar to fracking for natural gas.

He wants to sell more agriculture to Cuba and Russia. But he said, “We’re in a trade war with China” because of its manipulation of its currency, which is artificially low so China can sell its good cheaply abroad.