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   MASCOUTAH, Ill. (AP) - The federal government won't make a decision for years on whether to close Scott Air Force Base, but leaders in southwest Illinois fear growing budget pressures in Washington could affect the facility's future.

   The Belleville News-Democrat reports that Illinois congressmen are working to keep the base open even though the next round of base closures won't take place until at least 2015.

   Republican U.S. Rep. John Shimkus tells the newspaper that the base's fate is at risk if Congress doesn't reform entitlement programs. Defense Department officials have said that the facility has more infrastructure than needed.

   Civilian workers at the base near Mascoutah are already scheduled to start taking 20 days of unpaid furloughs between May and September as a result of a series of automatic federal budget cuts.

 
Published in Local News

PENSACOLA NAVAL AIR STATION, Fla. (AP) - The U.S. Navy has canceled the remainder of the elite Blue Angels demonstration team's 2013 season because of federal cuts.

The commander of Naval air forces announced the decision on Tuesday.

The Blue Angels have performed at air shows around the world for more than 60 years. The fighter pilots selected to serve a two-year tour with the team are among the world's best and are often graduates of the Navy's famed Top Gun air tactics school.

A spokesman for the Navy said team members would be allowed to fly minimal hours to maintain flight proficiency in the F/A 18 fighter jets, but the six-jet squadron would discontinue group practices for the remainder of the season.

Published in National News

   BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - A spokesman for the Illinois National Guard and Air National Guard says more than 1,300 of its civilian employees will be taking unpaid furloughs as part of the automatic federal spending cuts that kicked in last month.

   Capt. Dutch Grove tells the Belleville News-Democrat workers will be taking 14 days of furloughs through the end of this fiscal year. Those workers include 230 at Scott Air Force Base in southwestern Illinois.

   He says those furloughs are set to start in mid-June, but that details on how that will play out remains unclear.

   The Scott base employs almost 5,600 civilian workers. It is located near Mascoutah. Base officials say those exempted from the furloughs include firefighters and others who hold jobs are considered essential for base safety and security.

 
Published in Local News
Friday, 05 April 2013 09:43

ESL Dist. 189 announces teacher lay offs

   Cuts in the classroom are coming to the East St. Louis School District. Teachers layoffs were announced  during Thursday night's packed school board meeting.  

   In all, 69 teachers in District 189 will lose their jobs.  Five elementary school principals and two middle school principals will also be cut.  

   East St. Louis is just the latest in a long list of metro-east school districts forced to make the cuts because of state and local budget issues.

Published in Local News

   WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is proposing cuts to Social Security as an attempt to compromise with Republicans on the budget.

   A senior administration official says the budget Obama will offer to Congress next Wednesday would reduce the deficit by $1.8 trillion over 10 years. It includes a revised inflation adjustment called "chained CPI" that would curb cost-of-living increases in Social Security and other benefit programs.

   The senior administration official stressed it is not the president's preferred approach but a compromise proposal to try to reach a long-term budget deal. Obama first made the offer to House Speaker John Boehner last year.

   The official spoke on a condition of anonymity since the budget has yet to be released. Technically, the administration actually would be limiting the growth of Social Security.

 
Published in National News
CHICAGO (AP) — Five small airports in Illinois are among dozens nationwide that will lose their air traffic control towers under budget cuts that have hit the Federal Aviation Administration.

The agency announced Friday that it will begin closing 149 air traffic facilities starting April 7.

The affected Illinois towers are at St. Louis Regional Airport in East Alton, Central Illinois Regional Airport at Bloomington-Normal, Decatur Airport, Southern Illinois Airport in Carbondale and Waukegan Regional Airport near Chicago.

All of the affected airports will remain open. Under long-established procedures, pilots will be left to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency without help from controllers.

The FAA is being forced to trim $637 million for the rest of the fiscal year under the federal cuts known as sequestration.
Published in Local News
The Associated Press compared how the budget proposals by Senate Democrats and House Republicans stack up over the next decade:

___

Total spending

Senate Democrats: $46.5 trillion
House Republicans: $41.7 trillion

___

Total revenue

Senate Democrats: $41.2 trillion
House Republicans: $40.2 trillion

___

10-year deficit

Senate Democrats: $5.4 trillion
House Republicans: $1.4 trillion

___

National debt at end of 2023

Senate Democrats: $24.4 trillion
House Republicans: $20.3 trillion

___

Social Security

Senate Democrats: $11.3 trillion
House Republicans: $11.3 trillion

___

Medicare

Senate Democrats: $6.8 trillion
House Republicans: $6.7 trillion

___

Health, including Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program

Senate Democrats: $6.6 trillion
House Republicans: $4.0 trillion

___

National defense

Senate Democrats: $6.0 trillion
House Republicans: $6.2 trillion

___

Income security, including housing assistance, cash benefits and food stamps

Senate Democrats: $5.6 trillion
House Republicans: $5.0 trillion

___

Interest on national debt

Senate Democrats: $5.2 trillion
House Republicans: $4.5 trillion

___

Veterans benefits and services

Senate Democrats: $1.7 trillion
House Republicans: $1.7 trillion

___

International Affairs, including foreign aid

Senate Democrats: $506 billion
House Republicans: $431 billion

___

Education, training, employment and social services

Senate Democrats: $1.1 trillion
House Republicans: $906 billion

___

Transportation

Senate Democrats: $919 billion
House Republicans: $801 billion

___

Agriculture

Senate Democrats: $205 billion House Republicans: $196 billion

___

Natural resources and environment

Senate Democrats: $474 billion
House Republicans: $385 billion

___

Community and regional development

Senate Democrats: $268 billion
House Republicans: $88 billion

___

Sources: Senate Democratic and House Republican budget proposals.
Published in National News
Friday, 22 March 2013 02:43

IL House passes pared down pension plan

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois House has approved a stripped-down pension plan that could delay and reduce cost-of-living increases for retirees and future retirees.

The bill is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan and comes out of a laborious process where lawmakers are addressing the pension problem piece by piece instead of a total overhaul at once. House members voted in favor 66-50 yesterday. It's the third scaled-back pension bill the House has recently approved.

Thursday's proposal says that no cost-of-living increases can be taken until retirees reach 67 years of age, or five years after retirement and applies COLAs only to the first $25,000 of an annual pension.

Illinois has nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability because for years lawmakers either skipped or shorted payments.
Published in Local News
The sequester budget cuts will soon be felt in the St. Louis area as more than 4,500 civilian workers at Scott Air Force Base will soon begin furloughs. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that the employees will receive 30 day notices by mail this week.

The furloughs mean affected employees will work only four days each week for 22 weeks, and they'll lose the pay for those 22 days off.

Only civilian employees in jobs essential for base safety and security, like firefighters, will be spared.

The paper reports that budget analyst estimate the furloughs will cost the region at least $28 million in reduced spending. About 5,600 civilians work at Scott Air Force Base.
Published in Local News
Two more districts have joined the growing list of metro-east school districts that plan to lay off teachers and other staff. Belleville District 118 and Highland Community Unit District 5 both announced staff layoffs Tuesday due to the state's budget shortfall.

District 118 will lay off six teachers and 20 staff members. The state of Illinois owes the district nearly two-million dollars.

In Highland, several teachers are being let go, but the specifics haven't been released.

Earlier this week, officials with Belleville District 201 and the Collinsville School District announced layoffs.
Published in Local News
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