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Obama takes pay cut

WASHINGTON — Sharing a bit of budget pain, President Barack Obama will return five per cent of his salary to the Treasury in a show of solidarity with federal workers smarting from government-wide spending cuts.

A five per cent cut from the president’s salary of US$400,000 per year amounts to US$20,000.

Obama will return a full $20,000 to the Treasury even though only a few months remain in the fiscal year, which ends in September. He will cut his first cheque this month, said the White House official, who was not authorised to discuss the decision publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The White House, after declining for weeks to provide specifics for how the president’s own staff had been affected, said Monday that 480 workers on the budget staff had been notified they may have to take days off without pay.

Five per cent cut

The five per cent that Obama will hand back mirrors the five per cent cut that domestic agencies took when the reductions went into effect. The Pentagon’s budget took an eight per cent hit. Every federal agency is grappling with spending cuts, which the White House has warned could affect everything from commercial airline flights to classrooms and meat inspections.

The cuts were written into a 2011 deficit-reduction measure as a trigger to force future action. The idea was that lawmakers, eager to avert the consequences of bluntly slashing $1 trillion over a decade, would have no choice but to come together to find smarter ways to reduce federal spending.

But the two parties were at odds over whether more tax revenues were needed as part of the solution, and an intense campaign by Obama and his Cabinet to illustrate how the cuts could affect critical programmes failed to spur an agreement by the March 1 deadline. As the cuts started taking effect, lawmakers turned to other issues, including an increase in the national debt ceiling, and there are no signs that a deal to undo the cuts retroactively will come anytime soon. (AP)

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