With less than two weeks left until automatic, across-the-board spending cuts of $85 billion take effect, Congressman Visclosky released the following statement urging his colleagues to seize the opportunity to enact a long-term, comprehensive budget solution:
"Since August of 2011 -- 18 months ago -- Congressional leaders knew that sequestration would take place under the Budget Control Act. Time and time again, we had the opportunity to pass a long-term deficit reduction plan that preserved vital investments in national security, infrastructure, technology, research, and workforce development. Instead of passing such a plan, we chose to kick the can at every opportunity. While we must find ways to responsibly reduce federal spending, sequestration is not the answer. I am ready and willing to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to cut spending in a thoughtful and discrete manner," Congressman Visclosky said.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that sequestration would cut economic growth in 2013 by half, with far-ranging consequences for job growth and small business development. CBO further projected that more than 1.4 million jobs are at stake under sequestration, creating the potential for enough job loss to wipe out half of the gains of 2012.
America's military and border security forces would be deeply impacted by the effects of sequestration. The U.S. Army would reduce training for 78% of its combat formations, while over 55% of U.S. Marine Corps units would have unsatisfactory readiness ratings if sequestration took effect. On border security, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol would be forced to lay off 5,000 border security agents beginning on April 1, 2013. Congressman Visclosky expressed outrage at the haphazard, dangerous cuts proposed:
"The safety and security of the American people should not be bargaining chips in high-stakes budget negotiations," Congressman Visclosky said. "Instead of mindlessly cutting defense and border security programs that keep Americans safe from harm, we must make thoughtful, deliberate decisions about the country's fiscal future."
Under sequestration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would face cuts totaling $255 million, likely leading to defunding of 65 ongoing construction projects and 43 dredging projects. Congressman Visclosky noted the vital importance of Corps projects in strengthening the economy of Northwest Indiana in his response.
"The Corps' flood control, water management, and transportation infrastructure projects have played a vital role in Northwest Indiana's economic development, and to throw the Corps' work on the chopping block without careful consideration is unacceptable," Congressman Visclosky said. "These cuts will harm our ability to protect ourselves from natural disasters and grow our economy."
Title I Grants to schools, which serve disadvantaged students in predominantly low-income communities, would be cut by more than $750 million, which could lead to a loss of 10,500 teachers and teaching aides. In Indiana alone, nearly $15 million will be cut from Title I. "Sudden, deep cuts to our schools will hurt our economic recovery in the short term and our economic health in the long term," Congressman Visclosky said. "Our schools should be centers of opportunity for young people throughout Northwest Indiana and across the country."
Visclosky will co-host a "How Would You Balance the Budget?" forum with the nonpartisan Concord Coalition on Monday, March 11, 2013, from 6-8 PM in the Grand Ballroom of the Radisson Star-Plaza. During this free event, participants will work in teams of six, evaluating 40 CBO-scored proposals to balance the federal budget and grow America's economy. Space is limited for this event; interested participants are encouraged to call (219) 795-1844 or (202) 225-2461 to request a space as soon as possible.
"Now, more than ever, we must have an open, honest dialogue about the fiscal challenges our country faces," Congressman Visclosky said. "I am holding this event because I take my constituents' concerns about the federal debt and deficit very seriously."
For a full report on the impacts of sequestration from the House Appropriations Democrats, click here.