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Virginia Lawmakers on Sequestration

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The House and Senate are set to debate the nation’s budget this week and it has huge implications for the region. Virginia lawmakers are fighting to keep those indiscriminate budget cuts known as sequestration at bay.

Virginia is ground zero for federal spending, and that has lawmakers worried as more than ninety billion dollars are scheduled to get lopped off from the budgets of federal agencies if sequestration gets triggered once again. House and Senate Republicans are proposing different ways to get around the budget caps for Defense, but Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner dismisses both as devastating for Virginia.

“It's ‘smoke and mirrors’ for this national capital region, it would be devastating to the federal workforce. It would cut in half our investments and education, infrastructure, research and development. I don't think there's even a rational way that people can actually build in real numbers into this kind of cuts.”

While some fiscal conservatives argue sequestration doesn’t hurt anyone and actually helps curtail the national debt, Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine argues it hurts many of his constituents.

“It does in Virginia - sees that tremendously - that the furloughs, reductions and ship repairs costing hundreds of hundreds private sector jobs and ship repair industry.”

Kaine says it’s not just the state’s defense industry that gets pinched under sequestration.

“There were dramatic reductions and number of Kids and Head Start, we went through a government shutdown - all of this was part of this austerity budgeting move that began with sequester. And we don't want to put folks through that again. Virginians sought very painfully.”

Senator Warner is calling for a broader package to get the nation’s finances back on track.

“I believe that needs to come with entitlement reform and tax reform so we can start getting our structure of programs of Medicare and Social Security will be here in 30 years and that we'll have a tax that allows Americans to stay competitive.”

Warner says other nations are trying to take advantage of partisan politics in Washington to attract U-S firms. He says that doesn’t bode well if another round of austerity kicks in.

“One of the things that has been quite alarming is - we're working on tax reform is - the rest of the world is moving very quickly and making their tax regimes both more attractive as well as trying to encourage not only intellectual property but the research and development jobs that goes with that intellectual property to be moved out of the United States and to move to another nation.”

One Virginia Republican, Scott Rigell, is unveiling a proposal later this week he’s hoping will garner broad support from both parties. It’s called America First which would lift sequestration by 75%.

“It's a combination of common ground that I believe common sense reductions on the mandatory spending side and there is some revenue.” 

Unlike most Republicans Rigell is open to tax hikes, but he says both sides need to compromise.

“We may not get everything that we want for relief of sequestration. Of course the President said he'd veto any budget that didn't lift it fully. Well, I think he needs to be a bit more open than that, having a bit less than full relief of sequestration.” 

The budget debate will dominate Congress this week as Republicans scramble to unite the fiscal and defense hawks in their ranks.

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