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Sen. Mark Warner speaks to business leaders in Falmouth Friday about federal spending cuts.
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BY KATIE THISDELL
Virginia business could see some of the worst effects of sequestration at the end of the year, Sen. Mark Warner told a group of business leaders in Stafford Friday.
But the crowd--about half of whom were connected to the defense industry--already knew that, as the federal cuts get closer.
At the roundtable talk at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, Warner spoke about everything from education to defense spending to health care--focusing on one question: How do we get out of this mess?
"It shouldn't be this hard to get the country on the right track," Warner said. The Democrat advocated a bipartisan approach to prevent federal spending cuts mandated as part of a last-minute agreement to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a U.S. default on debts.
Warner, a former Virginia governor and first-term senator, said that the country needs a Business 101 refresher to balance the budget by cutting spending and raising revenues simultaneously.
He said the worst cuts would be taking an "across-the-board meat ax" approach to defense spending. Cuts should be gradual, instead.
"We're going to get rid of sequestration. I think we will avoid it, but I think we're going to have to pay for it," Warner said, also criticizing Republican vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan's budget proposal.
Warner advocated for improved funding for infrastructure, support for entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, immigration reform and decreased regulatory burdens.
"Anyone that stands in a group like this faces tough challenges," said Vince Martinez, a defense contractor in Fredericksburg. "If we all collectively got together and capitalized on some of the things they talked about, such as incentivizing small business and getting rid of regulations, so that we can actually go out and compete, that's encouraging to me."
Warner said the government is not going to spend the way that it has for the past 10 years, which had helped the number of defense-related industries rapidly increase in the area, particularly Stafford County.
Herman Hewitt, senior vice president of business development of Reston-based MetroStar Systems, told Warner that the threat of sequestration is hurting many employers.
"It's killing us. It's really impacting small businesses," Hewitt said.
"We need to get the roadblock on these budget issues moving much faster," Hewitt said after the discussion at the historic estate in Falmouth.
Warner also touched on the importance of encouraging education at all levels, whether it be the traditional four-year degree or a certification program.
Martha O'Keefe, dean of workforce and professional development at Germanna Community College, appreciated Warner's comments about career credentials and certifications.
"Not everybody is ready or wants to go to a four-year college. But for them to have options helps get our economy back in the right direction," O'Keefe said. "I think it's important for different options for different people."
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975