Scott forced to furlough thousands; planes grounded due to lack of money

News-DemocratOctober 1, 2013 

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— More than 3,400 civilian workers were sent home Tuesday on unpaid furlough from the air base as a result of the partial government shutdown that took effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

About 1,800 civilian workers, whose work is deemed mission critical, showed up for work, but won't be paid the money they are owed until the shutdown ends.

Active-duty military personnel remained on the job, and will continue to be paid as a result of an executive order President Barack Obama signed Monday night.

A reduction in training hours caused by the government shutdown led the 126th Air National Guard Refueling Wing on Tuesday to ground its eight KC-135 Air Stratotankers for the time being, according to Col. Pete Nazamis, the wing commander.

Since Congress has not passed a 2014 fiscal year budget, "right now we don't have any flying hours, so we can't even do training sorties because there's no budget, there's no appropriation," Nezamis said. "We can't fly just normal training missions every day because we don't have an appropriation for training for this fiscal year. ... All training has been terminated until further notice."

Also as a result of the goverment shutdown, the wing gave unpaid furloughs to about 200 civilian employees Tuesday morning. As with other units at the base, exemptions were made for nearly 108 fulltime fulltime national guard members deemed critical to the wing mission, Nezamis said.

However, the KC-135s may be deployed to fly critical missions to support national security, "then we could be asked to fly in support of contingency operations or critical missions, things like that," he said.

A wide range of federal offices were closed Tuesday because of the shutdown, including the Internal Revenue office in Fairview Heights.

Overall, about 80 percent of the federal government's 4.1 million workers will stay on the job during the shutdown, though in most cases they won't get paid the salaries they're owed until after the shutdown ends, according to the Business Insider.

About 800,000 federal workers have been sent home on unpaid furloughs.

The federal employers who remain on the job are there because their jobs are not subject to the normal appropriation process, such as the 500,000 people who work for the U.S. Postal Service employees.

Amtrak will also keep its trains running for the time being because it relies on passenger ticket dollars.

Also being kept on the job, even if they are going without pay, are federal workers whose jobs are critical to protect life or property, such as park service firefighters and police.

Scott, with 13,000 active-duty, reserve and civilian employees, is the metropolitan St. Louis region's largest employer. It's annual economic impact exceeds $3 billion.

U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, who joined Congress in January, issued a statement in which he said that "in my short time in Washington, I have never been as frustrated as I am today. Common sense is out the window and the American people expect more from those sent here to represent them."

Enyart said Congress had let down America's troops, veterans and federal works and called it unfortunate that "a small group of irresponsible politicians are now holding the entire nation hostage with an ever-changing list of political demands they know they can't achieve."

Enyart announced he was donating his pay during the shutdown to a Southern Illinois foodbank and called upon fellow members of Congress to do the same.

"Now is the time put love of country ahead of ideology. Now is the time to put our troops and our veterans ahead of politics."

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, also issued a statement Tuesday denouncing the shutdown, calling it "absolutely unacceptable."

Davis reaffirmed his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the massive health care reform law Congress passed in 2010, but emphasized his willingness to work with Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate to end the shutdown.

"It's unfortunate that the President and leaders in Congress were unable to negotiate in good faith to put forth just a six-week plan to fund the federal government," Davis said. "We owe it to the hardworking taxpayers to continue working as quickly as possible to compromise and get this done."

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