Idaho’s senior senator and congressman both said today that they expect the automatic federal budget cuts required by sequestration to kick in as scheduled on March 1, forcing devastating cuts. “The one thing I’ve discovered is for every complex problem, there is a simple solution that doesn’t work,” said 2ndDistrict Congressman Mike Simpson. “I think sequestration is going to kick into effect, because I don’t see the will on either side of the aisle to try to address what are painfully stupid cuts – it’s a meat ax.”
The cuts, both in the military and in other discretionary federal spending, would be across the board, Simpson said. “They can’t prioritize.” Plus, he said, “It’s an $85 billion hit only on the discretionary side of the budget. It doesn’t address what is driving our debt, and what is driving our debt is the increases in mandatory spending. And that’s what we’ve got to get at.”
Sen. Mike Crapo said, “I agree with Mike, I think that we will go into the sequestration. It will begin implementing.” Before that happens, he said, both sides likely will put forth alternatives that the other side will shoot down. Said Simpson, “In the end, it’s got to be a solution that can be both bicameral and bipartisan, if it’s going to be adopted. But our big question has been: How do you get the American people to understand the seriousness of the problem?”
An event tonight at which both Crapo and Simpson will take part is aimed at that question. From 8-10 p.m. in the Capitol Auditorium, Simpson and Crapo will join Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, retired Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, and Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, for a symposium on which the panel will discuss the federal fiscal crisis and answer questions. Tickets for the free event are sold out, but there will be overflow rooms for viewing at the Capitol, and it also will be video-streamed live by Idaho Public Television. Tonight’s symposium is sponsored by the University of Idaho’s McClure Center for Public Policy Research; Greg Hahn of Idaho Public TV will be the moderator.
Crapo said there’s budget pain coming. “The pain is increased taxes, the pain is changes in the structure and operation of the entitlement system, the pain is the reduction in defense spending and in other discretionary spending programs, and the fact that we just don’t have the ability to continue to sustain borrowing money to continue to stimulate the economy.”
Asked if Idaho lawmakers should anticipate extending their legislative session to deal with the budget fallout from Washington, D.C. this spring, both Crapo and Simpson said no. “I don’t think they need to be in town months longer,” Simpson said. “There will be some impacts that affect the states.” Said Crapo, “The Legislature doesn’t need to stay in town any longer, but what it needs to do is to recognize that it is going to be dealing with a different budget picture from the federal government. We don’t know yet exactly what that budget picture is, but we do know that it will be much more austerity than has been there in the past.”
You can watch tonight’s event live here; click on “Auditorium.”