News Column

Lawmakers Strike Hopeful Tone on Budget Cuts

Oct. 24, 2012

Jakob Rodgers, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Not everyone is convinced that billions of dollars in looming across-the-board budget cuts will hit the federal budget next year.

Three of Colorado's elected officials struck a hopeful -- if cautious -- tone Tuesday that $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts known as "sequestration" could be avoided by the Jan. 2 deadline.

But others remained skeptical one day after President Barack Obama declared during a debate with Republican nominee Mitt Romney that the cuts wouldn't take hold.

"First of all, the sequester is not something that I proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed," Obama said Monday night. "It will not happen."

The failure of a Congressional supercommittee to trim the federal deficit in late 2011 triggered the "sequestered" cuts, which would slash up to 10 percent from much of the federal budget during the next 10 years, including education and military spending. Troop pay and warzone spending would be spared from Defense Department cuts.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., chided the president for not offering details along with his declaration. But Lamborn also voiced confidence that the cuts could be avoided.

"I'm hoping deep down in my heart that it is avoided, because it would be devastating to the military," said Lamborn, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee. "And I think that there will be enough people that will come together to prevent it from happening. But so much depends on the elections."

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., remains "cautiously optimistic" the cuts can be averted, said Mike Saccone, the senator's spokesman.

"He is disinclined to create additional uncertainly for the markets -- as well as the American people -- to kick this can down the road any further," Saccone said.

Exactly how they plan to avoid the cuts remains unclear.

Udall supports the mix of tax increases and budget cuts found in the so-called "Simpson-Bowles" plan. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., has been working on a three-step solution revolving around that plan, the New York Times reported earlier this month.

Lamborn rejected calls for tax increases -- instead suggesting funding cuts for non-defense programs, including agriculture.

Should a deal not be reached, the region could lose $175 million to $350 million in military spending during the first year of cuts, according to estimates by Summit Economics and the Southern Colorado Economic Forum, respectively.

Obama's comment drew skepticism from Joe Raso, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, and Don Addy, chairman of the Colorado National Defense Support Council.

"I hope he's right," Addy said. "I hope he knows something that hasn't been shared yet.

"It would be so harmful to our nation, I can't imagine any of our elected officials allowing it to happen. But if everybody feels that way, then why aren't they doing something about it?"

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)