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Union Leaders, Congressional Reps Say Sequestration’s Time Is Up

Above: Congressman Scott Peters and Congresswoman Susan Davis talk about the impacts of sequestration at a press conference.

Union leaders and two San Diego congressmembers said Thursday the federal budget cuts known as sequestration are hurting the San Diego region and need to end.

Aired 8/22/13 on KPBS News.

Union leaders and two San Diego congressional representatives said Thursday the federal budget cuts known as sequestration are hurting the San Diego region and need to end.

Sequestration took effect almost six months ago. On Aug. 1, Senate Republicans filibustered a bill to fund transportation, housing and urban development, which was seen as a signal that sequestration will not end soon.

Leaders from the American Federation of Government Employees and the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and congressional representatives Susan Davis (CA-53) and Scott Peters (CA-52) outlined what they said were the negative impacts of sequestration at a press conference Thursday.

Federal employees have taken 22 furlough days this year and have dealt with three years of pay freezes, said George McCubbin III, the national vice president of AFGE District 12.

"It's not our responsibility to pay down the federal deficit," he said. "It's everyone's responsibility and we have done our fair share."

Richard Barrera, a San Diego Unified School Board member and the secretary-treasurer of the labor council, said the cuts to federal employees' pay sends a "ripple impact on the entire local economy, including small businesses."

"It makes families focus on how to meet their budgets, pay their rent and feed their kids," he said.

He said the cuts impact a range of federal employees in the San Diego region, including people working for the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Social Security and Border Patrol.

Davis also said sequestration has cut important services like preschool, forcing 57,000 young children to leave Head Start, a program for children from low-income families.

Members of the American Federation of Government Employees hold an AFGE banner during a press conference on sequestration.

She said she wants to end sequestration by urging the House leadership to make appointments to the budget committee.

Until that happens, she said, "we're not going to be able to move forward, we're not going to be able to make the very tough decisions that are going to do away with the sequestration, that are going to turn around the way we actually budget and the priorities that we have."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told national media that President Barack Obama can end sequestration by agreeing to cuts.

"I want to make clear sequestration is going to remain in effect until the president agrees to some reforms that allow us to remove it," Boehner said. "The president insisted on the sequester. None of us want it. None of us like it. There are smarter ways to cut spending."

Peters said while budget cuts are sometimes necessary, "the way to do that is by focusing on the mission, not making across-the-board cuts."

He wants to appoint negotiators to create a compromise between the House and Senate budgets.

"What we can't do is continue on this path of sequestration, we can't let sequestration become the new normal," Peters said.

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Avatar for user 'RolandoParkRunner'

RolandoParkRunner | August 22, 2013 at 5:19 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Any economist worth his salt will tell you this time period -- trying to make the climb out of steep recession -- is the absolute worst time for government to cut spending.

But the GOP leadership and its tunnel vision on, well, just about everything -- including the economy -- should be the first ones you should send your thank-you notes and well-wishes to for stalling out the American economic engine.

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Avatar for user 'David Lucero'

David Lucero | August 27, 2013 at 10:32 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

It is a crying shame our political leaders cannot agree on anything at a time when so many Americans are suffering. Democrats and Republicans talk about compromise, yet neither side does. They come up with billions in foreign and military aid, yet we can't pay teachers to educate our children and have to close some national parks.

Just what is the plan? The largest retailers no longer want full-time workers in order to save on health benefits and pay. Even if the government eased back on business taxes and the like, there is little reason for any of us to believe companies will do the right thing by paying employees living wages. Remember the scene in 'It's A Wonderful Life,' when James Stewart tells Mr. Potter how if people live better it makes them better customers.

So what are we to do? Resign ourselves to a lifetime of part-time work, higher-education costs, higher gas costs, higher food costs, etc.? Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?

How would our political leaders like it if they didn't get paid, or worse, earned only part-time work for their poor performance while we all wait for things to get done. I personally, have been fortunate to stay employed, but with a pay cut. I know plenty of people still looking for work and the prospects are dim. As I near the age of 50 I can't remember a time I have ever been more concerned about our future than now. God forbid we have to live in fear of the unknown much longer.

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