- Associated Press - Sunday, March 2, 2014
Proposed cuts pack big impact for Wisconsin city

WASHINGTON (AP) - To see the impact of strategic military decisions on local communities, look no further than Marinette, Wis.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s vision for leaner, more versatile military targeted the littoral combat ship, the marquee product of the city’s biggest employer. And that could mean lost jobs in Marinette, a city of roughly 11,000.

“It’s been hanging out there,” Marinette Mayor Denise Ruleau said. “I think the community is aware that we have two 10-ship contracts. That it will supply them with five years’ worth of work.”


But Hagel’s proposal to cancel 20 of a planned 52 ship orders raises questions about the five years after that. Marinette has a relatively diverse economic base, but its biggest employer is Marinette Marine, which builds the littoral combat ships with defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

About 2,000 jobs in Marinette are directly linked with the littoral combat ship program. The current projected overall cost to the Navy for the littoral combat ship program is roughly $34 billion.

Ann Hartnell, the executive director of the Marinette County Association for Business and Industry, said dozens of other businesses across Wisconsin and the region, like parts suppliers, also would be affected by the cuts.

“I’m not going to worry until the cuts are final and I think that’s kind of the attitude of everyone I know,” Hartnell said. “We know it may be coming.”

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NY, Conn. up heat help in food stamp cut end-run

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut and New York have found a way around federal budget cuts that played a central role in the massive farm bill passed this month: bump up home heating assistance a few million bucks in return for preserving more than a half-billion dollars in food stamp benefits.

The moves by Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo - with the possibility that more governors could follow - cheer social service advocates who say the deep recession and weak economic recovery have pounded low-income workers and the unemployed who rely on heating assistance and food stamps.

The $100 billion per year farm bill cut $800 million annually in the food stamp program by ending some state practices that give recipients minimal heating assistance - as low as $1 per person - to trigger higher food stamp benefits. Compromise legislation requires states to give recipients at least $20 in heating assistance before a higher food stamp benefit could kick in.

Connecticut and New York have both moved to bump up heating assistance in order to preserve the food stamp benefits, a decision backed by advocates and panned by critics who say it’s just a way to circumvent the point of the bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 7.

“The extra money being spent is an artificial boost of an amount that a household is receiving, but they’re doing so though a scheme, basically,” said Rachel Sheffield, a policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.

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