Cuts take aim at Blue Angels, Hanford leaks, housing, more ...

Cuts take aim at Blue Angels, Hanford leaks, housing, more ... »Play Video
U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet soars over Seattle during the 2012 Seafair celebration. The Angels may not perform in 2013 if automatic spending cuts remain in effect.
SEATTLE - Severe spending cuts are now the law of the land, and while the impact has been minimal on Day 1 - the uncertainty of what's to come has many people worried.

On Friday, President Obama signed the sequestration order cutting $85 billion in federal spending after Congress failed to come up with an agreement to avoid it.

Half of the automatic spending cuts fall directly on the Pentagon. Furlough notices will go out to 800,000 civilian Defense Department employees later this month - including thousands in the Puget Sound region.

Republicans and Democrats are blaming each other for letting the cuts go through.

"These cuts are not smart. They will hurt our economy and cost us jobs," says Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. "In the last year, the House of Representatives has passed two proposals to replace the president's sequester with smarter spending cuts."

Some local air traffic controllers could be furloughed in April. That means towers at airports like Renton Municipal and Paine Field could soon be sitting empty.

The spending cuts also means people struggling to find affordable housing are having a harder time. Ahead of the cuts, King and Snohomish counties have frozen their waiting lists for Section 8 vouchers, although Seattle is trying to help current low-income clients by preventing rent increases.

Meanwhile, the cuts could ground the Blue Angels at this year's Seafair festival. In a statement, Seafair officials say they're standing by for word about the precision Navy flying team's schedule - and they're working on alternative plans just in case the Blues can't fly.

And the sequestration cuts at the U.S. Energy Department could delay a top priority for Gov. Jay Inslee - the cleanup of six leaking tanks of radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear reservati0n.

Inslee says the leaks at Hanford pose no immediate threat to public health, but he says slowing down the cleanup is unacceptable.

In just one month's time, the problem at the Eastern Washington nuclear site will be coupled with big-time federal spending cuts, creating what some are calling the perfect storm.

"That's most disconcerting to see those two things happening," says Inslee.

On Feb. 15, hundreds of gallons of radioactive waste were found to be leaking from one tank at the Hanford reservation. Days later it was revealed that not one but six tanks were leaking the dangerous waste.

And now because of the sequestration cuts, federal money funding jobs at Hanford could be reduced, slowing down the cleanup.

"We don't know tonight about the furlough situation, but I would say it is probability rather than a possibility," says Inslee.

The governor says up 1,000 private workers could be impacted by the furloughs - and that means a federal cleanup that could take a lot longer.

"We do not accept and will not accept delays caused by any reason, including this, says Inslee.

The U.S. Energy Department is facing an estimated $1.9 billion is spending cuts including $400 million for the Office Of Environmental Management, which overseas the cleanup at Hanford.

"Our solution at Hanford is to insist that the federal government do its job - invest the dollars it takes to remove liquid or sludge from these leaking tanks ... and move with all dispatch," says Inslee.

Meanwhile, analysts say the full impact of the sequestration might not be felt for months.

Congress and the president could still halt the cuts in the coming weeks, but neither side has expressed any confidence they will do so.

And on Sunday, the Senate's Republican leader says the automatic spending cuts are modest and a step toward curing Washington of its "spending addiction."

Sen. Mitch McConnell says families have had to trim their budgets and can appreciate Washington's step to curb spending.