WASHINGTON — A group of 131 mayors, including R.T. Rybak, St. Paul’s Chris Coleman and Rochester’s Ardell Brede, have called on Congress to halt the spending cuts scheduled to take affect on January 1.
The mayors sent a letter to congressional leaders on Thursday asking for a “bipartisan and balanced approach” to deficit reduction in place of the planned spending cuts, which were passed as part of the Budget Control Act that Congress approved last August. The $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years could have been avoided had a bipartisan committee (the “Super Committee”) come to an agreement on a deficit reduction package, but the group failed.
The spending cuts (formally called “sequestration”), along with the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, make up the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Of the $1.2 trillion in cuts, $110 billion take affect in 2012 alone. Economic analysts predict more than 2 million jobs are on the line, and going over the fiscal cliff could lead to another recession.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is advocating for a three-part approach: defense spending cuts, cuts to domestic programs and new revenue. At a D.C. press conference Thursday, a group of mayors, including Rybak, said the Conference would not support a deficit reduction plan that did not include all three components.
“This is the wrong time to send a negative economic jolt into the economy, and it is absolutely past time for Congress to be getting its work done,” Rybak, the mayor of Minneapolis, said at the press conference.
His listed a series Minneapolis programs that are set to be hit by the cuts, specifically those to the federal Community Development Block Grant program, which funds several city initives like a youth violence prevention. The city’s STEP-UP jobs program gets federal money, and Minneapolis is taking advantage of a grant program called SAFER that provides funds to hire more fire fighters. In total, the Conference of Mayors estimates one-third of the scheduled cuts would hit state and local government programs.
Rybak said Minneapolis is tentatively planning for a normal amount of federal funding. The city is hiring workers using the SAFER program, for example, and Rybak is moving forward with a 2013 budget proposal that includes federal money. If sequestration takes effect, the city would have to make a supplemental cut to the budget, he said.
“We’re optimistic that Congress will see the light and do its job,” he said. But if sequestration comes down, “the additional cuts won’t be pretty and people have the right to be incensed that basic services in the city would have to be cut because Congress can’t do its job.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry