U.S. Rep. Ron Barber today urged President Obama and congressional leaders to resolve their budget impasse, saying Southern Arizona jobs, funding for social service agencies and research money for the University of Arizona all hang in the balance.
"I have heard from thousands of Southern Arizonans who are concerned about the impact of the pending budget cuts on their families and businesses," Barber wrote today in a letter to Obama and congressional leaders. Barber urged them to "act to bring bipartisan legislation to the floor of the House and Senate that will strengthen our economy "
" We cannot push these decisions off to next year," Barber wrote. "We must act now to give each of these families, seniors and businesses the certainty that they deserve."
With his letter, Barber sent more than 100 messages that he recently has received from his constituents. Barber said there are Southern Arizonans "who have too much to lose if these cuts are allowed to take effect and who call on us to work together to find a solution."
Barber today also urged his constituents to continue sending him comments about the fiscal cliff negotiations by going to his website: barber.house.gov and clicking on "Contact Me."
This is the second time within a week that Barber has called on the president and leaders of the House and Senate to come up with a bipartisan agreement.
Last week, Barber joined more than 60 of his colleagues in sending a letter to budget negotiators stating that job creation must be part of any budget agreement.
"It would be a mistake to address our fiscal challenges without helping the millions of Americans who want to work but have been unable to find jobs," Barber and his colleagues wrote last week. "Instead, putting Americans back to work in good jobs will both help us place the public debt on a more sustainable trajectory and set us on a long-term path to economic prosperity and opportunity for all."
"Putting people back to work should actually be the first step, as it will reduce the burden on assistance programs and increase the number of employed workers paying taxes," according to the letter. "Unlike middle-class tax increases or domestic spending cuts, putting people back to work will help sustain our economic recovery in the short-term and set us on a path for growth for years to come."
Last month, Barber also urged budget negotiators to give priority to job creation.
"Our first priority must continue to be getting people back to work," Barber said Nov. 15 in a Capitol Hill press conference. "It is a win-win. Because putting Americans back to work is the fastest and most effective way to reduce the short term deficit."
A series of earlier compromises in tax and debt legislation in 2010 and 2011 all are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. So unless negotiators reach a budget agreement that is passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president on or before Jan. 2:
Bush-era tax cuts will expire, meaning the typical middle-class family of four will see its taxes rise by about $2,200 per year.
Across-the-board, automatic spending cuts known as sequestration will take effect. That will impose $1.2 trillion in cuts -- about half from the military and half from domestic programs including infrastructure, education, health care and public safety.
There also is the prospect that on Dec. 29, jobless benefits will cease for 2.1 million people who have been out of work for more than six months.
The letter Barber and sent today is below:
Dear President Obama, Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader Pelosi, and Minority Leader McConnell:
Since I came to Congress just 6 months ago, I have heard from thousands of Southern Arizonans who are concerned about the impact of the pending budget cuts on their families and businesses. As January 2nd rapidly approaches, I am writing to share with you the real stories and concerns of my constituents who will be deeply affected by these cuts if they are allowed to go into effect. On behalf of the people I serve I urge you to act to bring bipartisan legislation to the floor of the House and Senate that will strengthen our economy and relieve the uncertainty felt by my constituents and by Americans everywhere.
Sequestration also has the potential to cut $492 billion from the base defense budget across all programs and activities. My district is home to two military installations, many defense contractors, service members and civilian personnel that are vital to our national security and our local economy. For example, Raytheon Missile Systems, Southern Arizona's largest private employer with about 10,500 workers has been heavily impacted by the uncertainty created by the fiscal cliff. In anticipation of the budget cuts they have been forced to slow the pace of hiring and delay major programs and contracts. These are real jobs that our community cannot afford to lose.
Under the Budget Control Act, a wide range of domestic programs that are critical to the health and safety of Southern Arizonans are due to be indiscriminately cut by 8 percent. For the Pima Council on Aging (PCOA), the largest provider of senior services in my district, these cuts will devastate those programs that seniors depend on most. PCOA estimates that as a result, home-delivered meals may be reduced by as much as 40 percent and many seniors will lose access to home and community based care services that help them live independently. As the need and demand for services grows, we must protect these programs.
The University of Arizona in Tucson, a leader in public research, could lose up to $25 million a year in their annual research budgets under sequestration. These cuts not only threaten the promise of scientific discoveries and new cures and treatment for diseases, they will be felt across student bodies as many universities will be forced to increase tuition and fees to absorb the costs in these already difficult economic times.
These are just a few of the many examples of how sequestration would hurt Southern Arizona and communities like ours across the country. I have enclosed over 100 additional stories from my constituents who have too much to lose if these cuts are allowed to take effect and who call on us to work together to find a solution.
We cannot push these decisions off to next year. We must act now to give each of these families, seniors, and businesses the certainty that they deserve.
Member of Congress