WASHINGTON - A spending plan being pushed by Republicans would slash funding for the agency that warned Hawaii and the West Coast about the devastating tsunami in Japan.
The plan, approved by the GOP-controlled House last month, would trigger an estimated $126 million in cuts for the National Weather Service, the agency that houses the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. The center issued widespread warnings minutes after Friday's earthquake, and issued guidance and updates throughout the day.
A union representing workers at the tsunami center said the proposed cuts - part of $454 million in cuts for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - could result in furloughs and rolling closures of weather service offices. If so, that could affect the center's ability to issue warnings similar to those issued Friday, said Barry Hirshorn, Pacific region chairman of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, called the GOP cuts reckless and even dangerous.
"This disaster displays the need to keep the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center fully funded and operational," said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "I hope my Republican colleagues in the House are now aware that there was a horrific earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific."
A spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee, which is leading the budget-cutting effort, said deep cuts were needed to restore the country's fiscal health. The GOP plan would cut spending for NOAA operations by nearly 10 percent below the budget enacted last year.