All News & Blogs
What do Warner, Kaine, and Allen all agree on?
Visit the Photo Place
SEN. MARK WARNER says that "it shouldn't be this hard to get the country on the right track." But, then, it shouldn't be that hard to zip up Interstate 95 to Washington, either. The problem in both cases is the same: gridlock. Some new toll lanes may help I-95. But what will move Washington forward?
Mr. Warner was recently in Our Town to talk to business leaders. So, too, were the opponents in this year's tight Senate race: former Virginia governors George Allen and Tim Kaine. Why all the attention? Because area businesses will be hit particularly hard should sequestration occur. In fact, they're already feeling the impact.
Sequestration, of course, refers to mandatory cuts in federal spending beginning Jan. 2, 2013, if Democrats and Republicans in Congress cannot agree ahead of time on some combination of spending cuts and tax increases to rein in the nation's ballooning debt. Mr. Warner, along with Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, headed up the Gang of Six that tried to find a way out of the debt cavern in 2011. That group, which proposed a solution that was heavy on new taxes and light on specific cuts, broke up, but Mr. Warner still is calling for a bipartisan approach.
The problem is twofold: (1) resistance on the GOP side to new taxes and defense cuts and (2) stonewalling from the Democrats on cuts to social programs and entitlement reform. Those divergent views--which have been fruitlessly argued for years--will not be reconciled before Nov. 6. That leaves a narrow window, less than two months, to avoid sequestration.
And how might Greater Fredericksburg feel the impact of sequestration? Todd Gillingham, director of strategic initiatives and technology for the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance, estimates that somewhere between 15 and 17 percent of the regional economy is tied to government contracting, the sector that would take the heaviest blow.
Nationally, there are about 7.5 million government contractors (compared to some 2.6 million federal employees). Contractors have become increasingly attractive to government managers because they are "fast to the job and easy to get rid of when the job is over," as one expert put it. That puts those jobs first over the fiscal cliff.
What's more, the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires that certain businesses that anticipate significant layoffs notify employees 60 days in advance. Some may be preparing those notices right now. They would go out just before the election, which is why Mr. Kaine and Mr. Allen want to assure area contractors that they are aware of the looming danger.
The one thing Messrs. Warner, Kaine, and Allen all agree on? Congress must find a way to avoid sequestration. The real question is, how? Unless both sides agree to leave their entrenched positions and meet somewhere in the middle, it won't happen.
Nearly 100 years ago, the famous "Christmas truce" temporarily stopped the fighting in World War I. Perhaps our best hope is for another Christmas miracle.