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March 25. 2013 6:30PM

Shea-Porter tours shipyard, talks of sequester's impact


Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., spent about three hours at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Monday to take a tour, talk to officials and learn about ongoing construction projects and the effects of sequestration on shipyard workers. To her right is Paul O'Connor, president of the Metal Trades Union at the shipyard. (GRETYL MACALASTER PHOTO)
KITTERY, Maine - Rep. Carol Shea-Porter was at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Monday to learn about ongoing projects and the potential impact of sequestration.

She spent about three hours touring the yard, including the USS Miami submarine undergoing major repairs after an arson fire last spring caused over $400 million in damage to the forward compartment.

Shea-Porter met with shipyard officials before talking to the media outside Gate One, backed by a handful of shipyard workers and Paul O'Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council.

She said people are being more "polite" in Washington after a continuing resolution was passed last week to prevent a government shutdown. So far, the resolution has only delayed pending furloughs; shipyard workers are expecting to get notice in about two weeks for furloughs to begin in mid-May.

Shea-Porter said it does not look as if Congress will be able to stop sequester cuts rights now. The cuts will have an impact not only on workers, but the local economy, she said.

The one-day furloughs are expected to last 22 weeks, representing a 20 percent pay cut for shipyard workers.

Last week, shipyard workers gathered in Portsmouth's Prescott Park to rally against sequestration.

The decision by the Department of Defense to delay furloughs had nothing to do with the rally, Shea-Porter said, but did have to do with the work of men and women at the nation's shipyards highlighting the impact the cuts would have.

"The military simply could not absorb that kind of a chop," Shea-Porter said, so they were given more resources and an easier way to determine the resources to be cut.

The continuing resolution does include funds to continue maintenance on the USS Miami, the Democrat said. Work was scheduled to stop as a result of automatic budget cuts associated with sequestration.

Shea-Porter said the challenge now is two separate visions on how to deal with the problem. She referenced the GOP plan for spending cuts as an "austerity measure" and said the Democrats think cuts and revenue need to be considered.

She said the shipyard's mission is to protect the United States.

"So to place cuts here and other places that share that mission doesn't make any sense to me or to the people who work here," she said.

gmacalaster@newstote.com

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