As Congress rushes to finish its official business for September and depart for another session of politicking, there’s something ugly lurking around the corner — sequestration.
You remember that ill-advised contingency plan that was supposed to scare the ‘Super Committee’ into identifying $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions? Thanks to the Republican obstructionist agenda, a standoff over cuts forced utter failure in decision making. As a result, $55 billion is set to be slashed from non-defense spending on Jan. 2, 2013.
Under the guise of solving our deficit woes, sequestration, or an automatic across-the-board cut, would hit transportation programs and the workers they support. Hard.
In fact, sequestration could cut transportation funding by as much as 10% next year. And because the cuts would be implemented three months after the fiscal year begins, the impact would be more devastating to our transportation system because it would be concentrated over 9 months. While the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will have the final say on how these cuts will be meted out, this is just a sampling of what we can expect:
- Amtrak would be forced to make immediate cuts at a time when the carrier is experiencing record ridership and demands on its service are at an all-time high.
- The Maritime Security Program, an important component of our nation’s military readiness, would see cuts that could jeopardize its foundation.
- Cuts to the FAA budget could force control towers to close, causing some 2,000 air traffic controllers to be furloughed and other key FAA personnel could see roll-backs as well.
- Local transit authorities would suffer from restricted access to a major source of funding under New Starts, inhibiting the growth of local transit options that increase riders’ mobility.
And while programs supported by trust fund dollars may not be directly slashed, you can bet all programs would suffer from sequestration. Keep in mind that a slashed budget results in fewer people capable of putting federal funds into the hands of those who make the projects happen. Thus, the remaining nickels and dimes that actually do get invested would be slow getting to our communities to help hire workers.
Unfortunately, this grand plan to cut our way to prosperity demonstrates a complete and utter disregard for what we know to be true — $1 billion of federal transportation investment creates an estimated 30,000 jobs. Instead of devastating programs that employ countless Americans and keep our nation moving, we should be making prudent investments in an industry proven to produce jobs.
As we await the concrete details that will be laid out by the OMB’s sequestration report there is one thing that is crystal clear: transportation workers in every mode will suffer if this misguided approach to fiscal policy is allowed to proceed.