A federal sequester that would begin to go into effect March 1 would translate into funding cuts for Montgomery County and furloughs for federal employees in the county, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski told members of the county council on Monday.
“It’s going to be a big economic punch to the county,” said Mikulski, speaking on numbers broken down from a Feb. 8 White House report on the sequester’s effects.
Funding for education, transportation and local law enforcement would be cut by 5 percent in the county, Mikulski (D-Md.) said.
The cuts, she said, would mean that major transit projects would be “torpedoed.”
Mikulski’s staff added that it would be projects such as the proposed Purple Line light rail that could be affected.
The county’s federal employees — including those at agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — would sustain a 20 percent pay cut through furloughs, she said.
“Montgomery County will be tremendously impacted because it is the home of 17 key federal agencies and home to 32,000 federal employees in addition to major contractors like Lockheed Martin,” Mikulski said after the meeting. “So if the federal government catches a cold, Montgomery County could catch pneumonia.”
The sequester — which she said “was never meant to happen” — would happen every year for nine years, Mikulski said.
As an alternative to the sequester, Mikulski said, the solution should be a balance between more revenue and both defense and domestic cuts that are “targeted” and “strategic.”
County Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda said that, because of the county’s link to federal government issues, the county is currently on negative watch in terms of its bond rating, a fact Mikulski said she had not been aware of.
For the county’s AAA bond rating to be downgraded now because of federal issues, Berliner said, “is particularly galling.”
“Our county is among those that will be hurt the most,” Berliner said.
Councilmembers’ concerns included the effect the loss of funds would have on young students living in poverty, as well as economic development and small businesses.
Mikulski said she will return to Washington with examples from Maryland showing why the sequester is bad financial and economic policy.