Rob Andrews, a Democratic congressman from South Jersey, says now is no time for Congress to be taking a week off. And state and local taxes could go up, he predicts, if members don’t get back on the job swiftly.
“I am very disappointed that Congress is taking a break,” he said. “The country needs a break. On March 1, 750,000 jobs across the country could be at risk. We should not be leaving town. Congress should stay in town and work together and fix this problem.”
This problem goes by the name of “sequestration,” and it’s a fiscal time bomb set to go off March 1. Congress and the White House are challenged to agree by then on a compromise package of spending cuts and revenue increases that meet deficit reduction targets put into federal law in a previous deficit deal.
Barring such a deal, the law calls for a set of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to go into effect.
The slashing is designed to hit domestic and military spending equally; in future years, sequestration would trigger more than $100 billion in cuts annually. Given that the nation is already through part of its fiscal 2013 calendar, it’s estimated that cuts between now and the end of the year on Sept. 30 would equal $85 billion.
Andrews said letting the automatic “sequester” cuts take effect would harm valuable programs. He cited federal help to hire first responders as an example.”I believe an investment in more money for police and fire across the country is a winner in three ways,” he said. “It makes our streets safer, it does provide good middle-class employment and it takes some of the pressure off of local governments so they can provide education, transportation and other programs that are under stress right now.”Andrews said state and local governments might have to raise taxes to support such essential jobs that lost federal aid.
A budget deal after March 1 is still possible, and could undo some of the cuts, but the only way to avoid the sequester completely is a deficit deal by the deadline.