Sequestration could be major issue for Yuma's economy
It's often said that Yuma's economy is supported by three pillars: agriculture, tourism and government/military.
But one of those pillars is in deep jeopardy, thanks to sequestration.
Sequestration refers to a plan of across the board budget cuts at the federal level that will take effect March 1, unless our legislators in Washington, D.C., can come up with an agreement to reduce the deficit. The sequestration cuts would impact many federal programs over the next 10 years, both on the defense and non-defense side, to the tune of $1.2 trillion.
The spending cuts would be devastating to Yuma County. Our economy depends heavily on jobs provided by Yuma Proving Ground and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, as well as ancillary businesses that have grown here to support our bases.
According to YPG Spokesman Chuck Wullenjohn, the proving ground directly employs around 700 civilians. Payroll for those employees could be cut back by as much as $3.6 million, a serious blow. The impact would likely extend out to YPG's contractors, which employ more than 1,000 people. And, YPG could lose money for maintenance and repairs, as well as the 2013 summer internship program.
At Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, another 900 civilians could feel the pain of sequestration. However, the cuts would not affect active-duty military personnel.
But sequestration isn't limited to the two military installations. Cuts to Customs and Border Patrol would also hurt Yuma, leading to increased wait times at the Yuma International Airport, slower screening and entry for those entering the U.S. and a reduction in hours for Border Patrol and CBP officers. That's a huge problem for our area that would hurt both border security AND our economy – after all, if people are making less money, they will certainly put less into the economy.
According to the Office of Management and Budget, “bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate voted for the threat of sequestration as a mechanism to force Congress to act on further deficit reduction. The specter of harmful across-the-board cuts to defense and non-defense programs was intended to drive both sides to compromise. The sequestration itself was never intended to be implemented.”
And yet, here we are, with a divided government unable to come up with a plan to prevent this from happening.
There are a couple of options at hand.
The government could come up with a compromise. Or, they could allow the cuts to take effect March 1.
There's also a third option: They could decide to delay sequestration once again. The cuts were actually supposed to go into effect on Jan. 2 but were delayed until March 1 as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations.
Congress and President Obama set a timeline for themselves to find $1.2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years – but, there's nothing to say they couldn't continue to give themselves extensions, or eliminate the sequestration plan altogether.
However, everyone seems to be in agreement that something needs to be done. Congress and the president need to act – before March 1 – to prevent sequestration from harming Yuma's already fragile economy.