S.C. leaders: `Fiscal cliff may be averted but military cuts still likely
COLUMBIA — Members of the S.C. congressional delegation have told the state’s military boosters that $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts set to take place Jan. 3, called “sequestration” or the “fiscal cliff,” likely won’t occur.
On the web
The details of the state Commerce Department report about the impact of the military on South Carolina can be seen at bit.ly/Zo29VU.
But the state’s lawmakers disagree on what will take its place to reduce the budget deficit, and warn that more military cuts will come through another round of base closings or other methods, leaders of the state’s Military Base Task Force said during their meeting Thursday.
“Generically, everybody thought that sequestration was the wrong thing to do and that they were very, very confident that sequestration in the current form would not happen,” said retired Maj. Gen. William “Dutch” Holland, a former chief of 9th Air Force who serves as task force’s executive coordinator. “But from there, the details vary greatly. ... It’s still going to be a fight.”
Meanwhile, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin was in Washington on Thursday receiving much the same message from the White House and congressional leaders.
“The sense I’m getting is there is going to have to be some kind of a grand bargain between now and the first of the year,” he said. “I hope the sequester is avoided. A meat cleaver approach to budgeting is never preferred.”
He and about a dozen other members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, including Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, met with Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and others to state their concerns about the domestic side of the cuts, as well as proposed cuts to the military.
The $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts would be split between military and domestic spending.
“Massive defense cuts would cause substantial jobs losses and could cripple our economic recovery,” Riley said. “The long-term fiscal fix our nation’s leaders are now seeking must be responsible and carefully considered. Needed will be a balance of budget cuts and additional revenues.”
Benjamin noted that such things as Community Development Block Grants, like the ones used to help improve Main Street facades and help businesses locate there, and the tax exemption for purchasing municipal bonds, which pay for infrastructure, would be scrapped under the current plan. That would make it more difficult for mayors to maintain and improve their cities.
“We’re trying to make sure that politicians up here understand the ramifications of their positions and how it trickles down to regular people,” he said.
A S.C. Department of Commerce study released Tuesday stated the military pumps $15.7 billion a year into the state’s economy and supports more than 138,000 jobs.
But those jobs and their economic impact are in jeopardy if more cuts to the military occur.
The task force was appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley to protect and enhance South Carolina’s significant military infrastructure, which contributes 7 percent of the state’s economy.