Local Officials Warn Of Sequestration Damage As Deadline Looms
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett will gather with his counterparts from Prince George's and Howard Counties on Tuesday to urge Congress to find a way to avoid the sequester, which they worry will have a damaging effect on a local economy dependent on federal funds, employees and contractors. This, as Maryland Democrats on Capitol Hill make a push for some action on avoiding the across-the-board federal cuts that would kick in on March 1. Yesterday, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) convened a hearing of her Senate Appropriations Committee to hear testimony from federal agencies on the effects of sequestration. Many, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, issued impact statements that detailed severe cuts that would come to their agencies. Sebelius wrote about cuts to the National Institutes of Health, headquartered in Bethesda: Cuts to the National Institutes ofHealth (NIH) due to sequestration would delay progress on the prevention of debilitating chronic conditions that are also costly to society and on the development of more effective treatments for common and rare diseases affecting millions of Americans. In general, NIH grant funding within states, including Maryland, will likely be reduced due to both reductions to existing grants and fewer new grants. We expect that some existing research projects could be difficult to pursue at reduced levels and some new research could be postponed as NIH would make hundreds fewer awards. Actual funding reductions will depend on the final mix ofprojects chosen to be supported by each Institute and Center within available resources. With each research award supporting up to seven research positions, several thousand research positions across the nation could be eliminated. During her visit with the Montgomery County Council on Monday, Mikulski said she realizes the effect the sequester could have on the county. "If the federal government catches a cold, Montgomery County could catch pneumonia," she told MyMCMedia. Montgomery is home to 17 federal agencies, 32,000 federal employees and many contracting firms that work with those agencies. Also yesterday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) introduced a $120 billion deficit reduction plan that would avoid the sequester cuts. Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, has long argued for a plan that combines spending cuts and higher taxes. House Democrats say the plan he sponsored yesterday would save 750,000 jobs the Congressional Budget Office says would be lost of sequestration takes effect. At a Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee meeting last month, an official from NIH said one direct effect of the budget cuts could be the closing of the campus' Old Georgetown Road entrance near Greentree Road, at least in the mornings.