Scott fears for state's safety with National Guard cuts now in effect

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - There are more than 1,000 fewer National Guard employees at work today in Florida. That's because the Department of Defense's automatic spending cuts went into effect.

As a result, guard members will be furloughed every Monday through September. They'll still have all the work with less pay.

Gov. Rick Scott was in St. Johns County on Monday talking about 85 new jobs coming to the company Advanced Disposal in Nocatee. While that's good news for the county, Scott also talked about cutbacks to the National Guard.

Employees will lose a big chunk of their paychecks, but Scott isn't upset just about that.

"Those individuals lose 20 percent of their income. They are furloughed one day a week, but on top of that think of safety of our state," he said.

The cuts could make it more difficult to fly helicopters, put out wildfires or rush to the scene of natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

With these cuts, the governor fears for hurricane preparedness.

"Our National Guard is our defense. They are the ones that are going to make sure the right thing happens after a disaster," Scott said. "So I'm extremely disappointed in the federal government."

Samuel Tozer is a National Guard officer candidate. He, his wife and their 5-year-old daughter were transferred to St. Augustine from Idaho three weeks ago. He remembers betting a friend the furlough wouldn't happen when he heard the news, but now it's here.

"It's a challenge because we're trying a new environment, trying to figure out where to send her to school, and it's just really challenging trying to figure out what we can do because we haven't quite hit that furlough date to see how it affects for sure financially," Tozer said.

He said he will now be paid about $900 less per month. He's already been trying to find ways to cut costs by getting rid of his smartphone and satellite TV.

"I'm reducing my percentage into my retirement, trying to make up everywhere I can to mitigate that dollar amount," Tozer said. "My wife might be deciding to go to work for a little bit to also help out."

There are predictions that things could be worse in 2014 if automatic budget cuts continue as planned.

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