Nearly three months after the federal government slashed discretionary federal spending, the region’s congressional delegation remains divided on what the impact of those cuts will be.
During the second day of the Dayton Development Coalition’s annual “fly-in” to Washington, D.C., federal lawmakers focused heavily on the spending cuts, known in Washington-speak as “sequestration.” The cuts have galvanized the Dayton region, home to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the state’s largest single-site employer and largest military installation.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “It still shouldn’t happen.”
Brown said the cuts would do little to improve the economy and could hurt it.
“Cuts in spending directly cost jobs,” he said, saying that Congress should work to close tax loopholes in order to cut the deficit. “When you cut dollars from Meals on Wheels or Dayton Children’s Hospital, it costs jobs.”
But Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, said the cuts weren’t necessarily a bad thing. “Let’s be honest,” he said. “We actually saved the taxpayer some money.”
Lawmakers also disagreed on how the federal government might be able to extricate itself from across-the-board cuts — or even whether to do so. Brown said the key to undoing the cuts — expected to hit more than $1.2 trillion over the next decade — would be for the House to accept a Senate budget that would effectively undo the cuts.
But Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said the budget is “a non-binding piece of legislation. It’s an overall scope document from which all the other bills come. It’s not a bill. It doesn’t say ‘stop sequestration and do this instead’ and that’s what the Senate needs to do.” He said if Congress reverses the cuts, it will likely happen during an upcoming debate over the debt ceiling.
Turner also said he worried that the cuts may lead to an inevitable base closure. President Obama called for a base closure in his most recent budget. Congress refused to participate in one last year, but Turner said the drastic cuts to the military might create an environment where a closure round would become a “default.”
Meanwhile, Jordan, who advocates for cutting spending but has defended the Lima Tank Plant, said the two positions are not in conflict. The tank plant, located in Jordan’s district, manufactures the M1 Abrams tank.
“If I genuinely believed this was going to save money and not jeopardize the national defense, and they said, you’ve got to get rid of the tank plant, OK, I’d have to suck it up and live with it,” he said. “I’m not convinced that is the case.”