Sequestration — significant automatic spending cuts to defense and civilian programs over the next decade — will likely start this spring, and it will mean thousands of layoffs, program eliminations and near-certain economic devastation for Northern Virginia, said Virginia Congressmen Jim Moran (D-8th) and Gerry Connolly (D-11th) Saturday at a town hall meeting with constituents.
"You need to be aware that this is probably going to happen," said Moran, who spoke at an annual meeting hosted by Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland. "It's a democracy and things will ultimately play themselves out, but things are not going well right now (in Congress)."
Connolly said that sequestration could put the economy back into a recession. "Unfortunately it probably is going to happen, at least for a while. So, we all have front-row seats living here, and by all means let your voices be heard," he said. "Here we are, doing well in Fairfax County — a 4.1 percent unemployment rate. We don't want to kill that with a mindless approach."
Congress averted the fiscal cliff crisis at the beginning of the year, and sequestration was postponed until March 1. The Economic Policy Institute says that the cuts will result in 689,000 job losses across the country this year, and will slash GDP growth by 0.6 percent.
On Monday (Feb. 4), U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will discuss the potential impact of the sequester, uncertainty of appropriations and more with defense contractors in Northern Virginia. The discussion is at Dynamis, an award-winning small defense contractor, in Arlington.
Significant Impact to Northern Virginia's Economy
In Virginia, the State House Appropriations Committee estimates that sequestration will cost more than $330 million in tax revenue, and substantial job losses across Northern Virginia.
It is unlikely that Republicans and Democrats in Congress will reach a deal on a deficit reduction plan, said Moran. "This is something that should have been avoided. And it's not just this one-time sequester in March. It continues for an entire decade," he said.
The automatic reductions are estimated to slash state and local education funding by 36 percent, funding in housing and community development by 28 percent, taking 18 percent from spending on health and the environment and reducing public safety and disaster response investment by 5 percent, according to a county memo handed out at a South (Fairfax) County Federation meeting in January.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) recently told the Washington Post that sequestration will mean 130,000-200,000 job losses for the Commonwealth. “It damages our national security and is disproportionately unfair to the state of Virginia,” he said. “I will continue to lobby against it.”
Virginia Del. Scott Surovell (D-44th) said Gov. McDonnell needs to press Congress to act. "The most important factor is the Governor's involvement and how hard he's willing to push," said Surovell to Patch. "In the short term, the main tools we have at the state level are extending and improving unemployment benefits. We can also create at least $500 million in jobs by retrofitting our schools and other public facilities with solar and energy efficiency projects funded by the revenue from the revenue saved by lower energy costs.
"In the long-term, the best way to stimulate the Northern Virginia economy and make us less dependent on government-sector jobs is to extend Metro, invest in transportation infrastructure and invest in our people through education so that the private-sector economy has the foundation for expansion," said Surovell.
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