Thursday, August 22, 2013

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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