The threat of sequestration - $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts to defense and civilian programs over the next decade - looms large for Northern Virginia. U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-11th) had grim news Tuesday evening for constituents in his telephone town hall meeting, and said that the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives refuses to come to the table to find a solution before the cuts kick in on March 1.
"The Republican leadership in the House has shown almost no willingness to work with us (Democrats) to avert it," said Connolly. "Until recently, the House Majority solution has been to shift all of the cuts from defense to the domestic investment side of the ledger, cutting education, transportation and virtually every other domestic investment program we've got. That's unacceptable."
The vitality of the Northern Virginia economy may depend on the outcome of this issue, he said. Fairfax County's unemployment rate is currently 3.7 percent, and Prince William County's unemployment rate is at 4.5 percent.
Read: Reps. Moran and Connolly: Sequestration Likely to Happen
"We benefit from more than $40 billion in federal contracts, more than half of which goes to companies located both in Fairfax and Prince William counties," said Connolly. "Federal employment accounts for 10 percent of all personal earnings in our district."
Connolly proposed these potential solutions:
- An IT reform bill, which could potentially save taxpayers up to $20 billion a year, by changing the way government purchases and manages information technology.
- Looking at billions in subsidies for the oil and gas industry, "given the record profits posted," said Connolly.
- Looking at billions in federal crop subsidies offered to farmers
- Recapturing "some of the $385 billion in uncollected taxes every year if we actually invested in additional IRS enforcement staff," said Connolly.
"Politics is the art of compromise. So, I continue to advocate for a balanced solution to replace sequestration with strategic cuts made with a scalpel, not a meat ax, and some new revenue," said Connolly. "If we're willing to compromise, there are common sense ways to strike the right balance - spending cuts and smart investments to preserve our regional and national economies."