Today is the day that was never supposed to happen. Congress has failed to do its job and pass a balanced, long-term approach to deficit reduction. As a result, forced cuts to federal departments and agencies will go into effect by midnight tonight. If left in place, these sudden and sharp cuts will slow private sector economic growth for the remainder of 2013 and beyond.
Though most Washingtonians will feel the effects of sequestration gradually, these cuts are not an abstraction. They are real and they have arrived. A few examples:
· Our state will lose more than $650,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement. This will make finding a job harder for the tens of thousands of Washingtonians currently looking for work.
· Nearly 10,000 Army civilian employees at Joint Base Lewis-McChord will be forced to take 22 unpaid furlough days this spring and summer. These lost wages will ripple through the South Sound's economy. Furthermore, at least one South Sound company that does business with JBLM has already laid-off dozens of workers as a result of sequestration-related Army cutbacks.
· The Ohanapecosh Visitor Center at Mount Rainier National Park, which attracted 85,000 visitors last year, will not open this summer. Other cuts to our national parks are likely. Our state could lose $3.3 million to help ensure clean water and air and nearly $1 million in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
I have voted in favor of a balanced sequestration replacement proposal three times in the month of February. This proposal would make real but responsible cuts in federal spending, close tax loopholes, and ask the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share towards deficit reduction.
Unfortunately, Speaker Boehner and others in Congress have refused to support this proposal, choosing instead to run out the clock as this deadline approached. I hope they will thoughtfully reconsider their stance as the full impact of these cuts become apparent over coming weeks and months.