Sequestration Budget Could Impact Jobs, Morale in Carroll County

Carroll County officials, Maryland's governor say sequestration would take a toll on jobs and morale.

Gov. Martin O’Malley said Wednesday that Congress’s inability to compromise on budget cuts has led to a situation where across-the-board cuts could slow Maryland’s economic growth.

O’Malley said in a news conference that 12,000 jobs could be lost statewide due to sequestration.

Without action from Congress, the sequester would go into effect automatically on March 1, reducing spending in education, the environment, health, military and law enforcement.

Local leaders say that it's difficult to gauge how the sequester will impact Carroll County, although many agree that it will.

Del. Justin Ready said that Carroll County residents employed by the federal government could be impacted.

"It is hard to know just how far-reaching the sequester impact will be," Ready told Patch. "We do know, of course, that many Carroll County residents are employed with the federal government or with contractors and businesses that do work with the federal government. Defense contractors could be hit pretty hard."

Carroll County Chamber of Commerce Director Mike McMullin said that businesses with government contracts will probably feel the effects of the sequester although he thinks Carroll will fare better than other counties.

"For any businesses with government contracts there may be a negative impact, but I think businesses in Howard County and Montgomery will feel it more," McMullin said.  "This is, of course, becoming a little like the boy who cried wolf where the White House is predicting such catastrophic consequences. It’s hard to believe that we can’t find 2 to 3 percent of the budget to cut without causing such widespread suffering."

In yesterday's Board of Education meeting, the school system's Chief Financial Officer Chris Hartlove reported that the sequester would likely mean a loss of funding somewhere between $750,000 to $1 million for Carroll County Public Schools.

Cuts also will impact human service programs around the country. According to Cindy Parr, director of Human Service Programs (HSP) in Carroll County, it's unclear exactly what cuts will be made but she said local services stand to lose  about $290,000 in grant dollars that support the Safe Haven shelter and 15  permanent supportive housing projects for the permanently disabled.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild said that a sequester could have a psychological impact as well as a financial impact.

"It will likely have a negative psychological effect on the county that could aggregate our struggling economy," Rothschild told Patch in an email. "In absolute dollars, I believe the effect on our revenue is likely to be small. But, even a small impact could be painful. For example, a 2 percent impact could translate to $7 million in lost revenue."

Commissioner Haven Shoemaker said that he doesn't anticipate the sequester having too much of a negative impact on Carroll County. However, he said that it is unfortunate that the federal government is functioning this way.

"It's unfortunate that the only way to force the federal government, which is running annual deficits of $1 billion, to cut spending at all is by sequestration," Shoemaker said. "And keep in mind, the cuts which will occur will only be cuts to the expected increase in spending. We certainly couldn't run our household budgets that way."

O’Malley said the sequestration budget crisis combined with a cynical attitude toward federal government may create larger problems.

“What worries me most is that people become so cynical about their primary institution of government,” said O’Malley, “that they stop weighing in, that these games become another ho-hum; and meanwhile, our recovery stalls.”

“We need to get out of this vortex; the election is over,” said O’Malley.

Are you concerned about the sequestration budget? Tell us in the comments.

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