Sequester trims Tipton’s office

Congressman’s staff member will hold office hours in town

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton will close his Cortez office by the end of March as a result of budget cuts sweeping the nation, his spokesman said.

Sequestration – automatic, across-the-board cuts that slash $85 billion from the federal budget this fiscal year alone – began March 1.

Defense and domestic programs were hit evenly, and lawmakers’ office budgets – which cover salaries, benefits and office expenses – were in the line of fire. Representatives will see their authorizations lessened by 8.2 percent, according to the Committee on House Administration.

Congressmen’s allowances range between $1.2 million and $1.5 million before these cuts, according to National Journal.

Tipton, R-Cortez, has an allowance of about $1.2 million for the legislative year, Josh Green said. His budget will be cut by about $98,400.

Shuttering the Cortez office will help close the gap, while still providing the same services to constituents, Green said.

Field representative Darlene Marcus currently spends one day a week in Tipton’s Cortez office, and the other four days in the Durango office.

Marcus will continue to be in Cortez once a week, but will hold “mobile office hours” in other locations after the end of the month, Green said.

Tipton’s office also will trim travel, Green said. The office will focus on “finding areas where we can cut back on excess travel without impacting availability and service,” he said.

Green said Tipton’s office has been preparing for these cuts for the last two years, a effort echoed by Sen. Michael Bennet’s office.

“Our office has planned for this contingency,” Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi said in an email. “Over the last 18 months, we’ve already been tightening our belts and expect to be able to maintain that now.”

The sequester was first passed in the Budget Control Act of 2011. Its cuts were designed to be so terrible, the parties would have to come together to avoid it.

But they didn’t, and the effects are just beginning.

In Colorado, $90 million could be cut from nondefense programs this fiscal year. The state also could see an $810 million economic impact from defense-related cuts this fiscal year.

Udall introduced a bill trying to soften the blow. The bipartisan bill would give federal agencies and departments more flexibility in implementing the mandatory cuts.

But for now, Udall’s office is dealing with the cuts to his allowance by cutting back on travel, reducing office use of mail and other services and consolidating some positions and responsibilities, according to spokesman Mike Saccone, without staff layoffs or furloughs.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations allocates senators’ allowances. Because of sequestration, 5 percent less will be available. Senators’ allocations range between $2.9 million and $4.6 million before these cuts, according to National Journal.

Stefanie Dazio is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald. You can reach her at sdazio@durangoherald.com.

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