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WASHINGTON - Ask someone where the federal government can reduce spending and one of their first answers will be: Take it out of politicians' salaries.
How about from their office budgets?
The March 1 sequester reduced individual Congressional office budgets by 8.2 percent, taking more cash from a Congress that had already made efforts to reduce its operational spending in recent years.
Why should you care?
Experts say this could affect your ability to get in touch with your local lawmaker.
"These cuts mean there's going to be fewer personnel on the ground helping citizens," says Brad Fitch, President and CEO of the non-profit, non-partisan Congressional Management Foundation in Washington, D.C.
"Constituents are just going to have to wait a little longer because members of Congress are going to have fewer resources to serve constituents."
PHOTO GALLERY: See how much local House members lost to the sequester cuts: http://www.wcpo.com/gallery/news/news_photo_gallery/congressional-budgets-cut-by-sequester
The budget for a U.S. Representative is about $1.3 million or $1.4 million, depending on how many people are in their district and how far they are from the Capitol. For example, freshman Brad Wenstrup (R, OH-2) was given an allowance of $1,353,000 for 2013. That amount dipped to $1,241,000 after the sequester.
"We estimated that there were going to be cuts coming our way so we planned on that from the get-go," Wenstrup said.
The Cincinnati lawmaker believes without the cuts he may have been able to hire one or two more staffers and possibly open another part-time office. Now Wenstrup says his staff is more cost-conscious, like when they travel.
"We watch the rates. We try to get the best deal. We do fly commercial and we fly coach," Wenstrup said.
Indiana freshman Luke Messer (R, IN-6) says he hired fewer staffers going into his first term.
"We've also not done any kind of mass mailings out of our office either, and that would be in part because of our budget cuts," Messer said.
"I think in some ways the folks who have been here longer and had robust built-out staffs have had a bigger challenge than the newly elected members."
Speaker John Boehner (R, OH-3) suffered cuts to not only his Congressional office budget but to his Speaker's office budget. Boehner's office allowance in 2012 was $1,317,516. Combine that with his leadership budget of $6,942,770, and both offices lost an estimated $677,000 after the sequester.
Brittany Brammell, Boehner's press secretary, couldn't cite any examples of how the Speaker has cut back, but she did say Boehner has asked members to book commercial flights instead of relying on more expensive military aircraft.
Brian Griffith, press secretary with Rep. Steve Chabot (R, OH-1), said their D.C. staff is cutting back on travel and limiting trips back to the Ohio district.
This is the third year Congress has limited its individual spending. In 2011 and 2012, Congress slashed budgets by 5 percent and 6.4 percent. Add sequestration and Congressional budgets are about 20 percent smaller from 36 months ago.
What about the U.S. Senate? The upper house of Congress fared much better after the sequester. Senator's budgets average about twice their House counterparts and suffered only a 5 percent reduction.
The Statement of Disbursements report listing each member's spending for the first quarter of 2013 (January- March) will be published for the public at the beginning of June.
See 2012 Statement of Disbursements at http://disbursements.house.gov/
|District||Member||2013 Budget before Sequester||2013 Budget after 8.2% Cut||Difference|
|OH-8||Office of the Speaker||$6,942,770||$6,373,463||-$569,307|
*2013 budget figures not available, so 2012 figures were used to estimate sequester cut.
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38-time Emmy winner Brendan Keefe was named Best Reporter by the Ohio Associated Press in 2011, and Best Photographer in 2012 and 2013. He serves as Anchor and Chief Investigator for 9 On Your Side.
Jason Law joined 9 On Your Side in January 2013 as a investigative reporter with the I-Team.