Local leaders of government and business are none too pleased with the budget stalemate on Capitol Hill. They are calling on Congress to get a deal done.
The Washington area is home to scores of federal agencies, hundreds of government contractors and tens of thousands of their employees. All are at some degree of risk if sequestration cuts come into play.
Time is running out and local leaders are getting antsy.
"As you know, we have a large number of federal employees here," says Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett. "But the problems and the impact really go beyond that."
Leggett and the top elected officials of Prince George's and Howard counties met with reporters in Rockville Tuesday morning.
"For us, like our surrounding jurisdictions, we depend on the federal government," says Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III. "The uncertainty that Congress is having on us right now is the biggest problem we have."
There are roughly 47,000 federal jobs in Montgomery County. There are another 27,400 in Prince George's County, where about ten percent of all jobs are with the federal government.
"These are not just numbers on a paper," Baker says. "This is not just petty politics between people down on Capitol Hill. These are actual folks who will not be able to pay their mortgage, pay their rent or teachers who won't get grants or housing vouchers that will go unfilled."
"Special education gets cut," says Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. "Local level grants for education for special needs children. Let's make some decisions on where the cuts should be in an intelligent way. In a way that's balanced and moves us forward. But until that happens, it's going to be very tough to govern at the local level."
Ulman says 12 percent of Howard County's workforce, roughly 19,400 workers, is employed by the federal government.
"Could this really be a time when we're going to cut back the work that's being done at Fort Meade?" Ulman asks. "I mean, what planet are we living on that anyone would think it makes sense to reduce the workforce of people that are working every day to protect our networks from cyber hacking, cyber theft?"
"And sequestration is nothing less than an assault on small business," says Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President GiGi Godwin. "They have to put their differences aside. Our business community needs certainty."
The county executives say they cannot finalize their budgets until they know what's coming from the feds.
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