By Congresswoman Cheri Bustos
In just a matter of days, deep across-the-board budget cuts that were designed to be so painful that they would never see the light of day are set to kick-in. These cuts, also known as sequestration, could deal a big blow to the economy of our region and lead to job losses.
That is why I have been opposed to sequestration from the very beginning.
Yet here we are, less than a week away from feeling the impact of these indiscriminate cuts to every federal government program. From cutting programs like Head Start that equip our children with the tools to learn, to programs that make sure the communities we live in are safe, to programs that protect our country from threats abroad, these cuts will impact us all and could wreak havoc on our region’s economy.
Here is how:
The Rock Island Arsenal is the largest employer in our region, with about 8,000 workers. Sequestration will force the Army’s civilian workforce at the Arsenal to begin furloughs. Army analysis shows the Arsenal could lose close to $200 million from the automatic budget cuts.
Cuts to the Arsenal also will have a trickle-down effect throughout the region. People will have less money to eat out, see a movie, buy a car and shop in our small businesses. We cannot afford to let this happen.
In addition to jeopardizing national security and readiness, sequestration could harm border security, food safety programs, as well as airline safety and security.
In Illinois alone, close to 3,000 children could lose access to Head Start, 50,000 people could lose access to job training programs, 5,000 fewer children could have access to vaccines, funding for law enforcement and first responders could be cut, and the list goes on.
Rather than argue about how and why we got to this point, now is the time for both parties to work together to find a bipartisan, common sense plan to stop these cuts in their tracks.
Here is what I’ve done to play my part in bringing about such a solution:
Instead of sending members of Congress home last week, I asked Speaker John Boehner to keep the House of Representatives in session so we could work together on a deal to avert the sequester. As much as I wanted to go home to Illinois to travel around our region and listen to our residents, sending lawmakers home before a deal was reached was irresponsible and not in the best interests of our country.
Unfortunately, with the clock ticking, my call to stay and work wasn’t heeded.
I also introduced the Government Waste Reduction Act, a bipartisan, common sense piece of legislation that could save tens of billions of dollars by reducing unnecessary duplicative government services and programs while protecting those that middle class folks across the country rely on.
This represents a good first step toward getting our country back on sound fiscal footing without hurting our middle class and hardworking Americans.
As for sequestration, anyone can see these across-the-board cuts are bad for our economy and bad for communities here in the 17th Congressional District. We need to get our fiscal house in order, but it cannot be on the backs of American workers, the middle class, and the programs that support the middle class.
I urge both parties to come together to find a bipartisan common sense solution before March 1.
Cheri Bustos represents Illinois' 17th Congressional District. She lives in East Moline with her husband, Gerry.