Richmond officials are alarmed about the impact of $85 billion in automatic federal budget cuts, called sequester, which are scheduled to go into effect March 1. President Obama has warned that the cuts would damage the economic recovery and hit teachers, firefighters, police officers and other government workers.
In public statements, Obama has been turning up the pressure on House Republicans to seek a solution before the deadline, but so far they have shown no interest in making a deal.
Most Republicans have urged their leaders to stay firm in adopting the sequester policy rather than compromising.
“It would be horrible if that went into effect. It’s a bad thing to do, Republicans would rather see the economy go in the tank than to do something positive with president Obama,” said Richmond City Councilmember Jael Myrick.
The cuts would also take money from mothers on WIC, the National Science Foundation, patients with HIV, children in Head Start, homeless program, according to the White House.
“It’s a question of whether we should cut important programs to support tax breaks for really rich people,” said Richmond City Councilmember Jim Rogers.
“Having the Republicans claim to be pro-business, but hurting programs that help to make the economy competitive, that’s not my idea of being pro-business,” said Rogers.
“Libraries, police protection, schools, we need to have [these] things in place when we are trying to attract businesses. Education is expensive, but think about how expensive ignorance is,” said Rogers.
According to Willie Robinson, President of the Richmond Branch NAACP, “President Obama is pushing for a balanced approach.”
“President Obama has talked about tax reforms that make sense,” stated Myrick. “A lot of these tax loopholes have always been a problem, and it’s Republicans and Congress that have to be willing to meet him halfway.”
To raise government revenue, Democrats have proposed closing tax loopholes, including tax breaks for oil companies,
Originally, the sequester was scheduled to take place Jan. 1, but it it was delayed to allow lawmakers to negotiate an agreement.
“There was the fiscal cliff, and through that whole process, the Republicans have always pushed that we are out of control in our spending,” said Robinson.
“Washington needs to come together and devise some short term means of supporting the portion of the population that’s struggling the most,” said Robinson.
“Spending cuts would be bad for everyone in America, but would especially hurt low-income cities like Richmond,” said Rogers.