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Griffith: Budget cuts likely
Congressman says cuts may not be as bad as expected
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Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith (center) looks over a brochure on Fentress Wood Products’ treated lumber during a stop at The Lester Group in Martinsville on Monday. At left is George Lester, who heads The Lester Group, and at right is Calvin Shoemake, general manager of Fentress. (Contributed photo)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith said it appears sequestration — $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts — will go into effect March 1, but he said it may not be as bad as people think.

“I’ve got to believe that most of the agencies themselves can cut” spending without experiencing any real impact, said Griffith, R-Salem, during a stop in Martinsville on Monday.

Under the 2011 Budget Control Act, unless President Barack Obama and Congress agree on their own cuts before March 1, sequester cuts will drain $85 billion from the government’s budget over the coming seven months, according to The Associated Press. The bill was passed with the belief that a Super Committee would reach a budget agreement and avoid the cuts, but that did not happen.

“I can’t say I was clairvoyant, but I didn’t vote for it,” Griffith said of the Budget Control Act.

Now, “it looks like sequestration is going to happen, and it will affect spending everywhere in the federal budget,” he said.

Sequestration would mean Griffith would have to make an estimated 12 percent cut in his office budget, he said.

“We have already cut 11 percent or 11.5 percent since I’ve been in office,” Griffith said, who took office in 2011. While the possibility of additional cuts creates some concern for his employees, “we haven’t laid anybody off and I don’t anticipate” that will happen, he said.

That may not be the case with local school divisions, which could get fewer Title 1 dollars for remedial education and less federal funds to spend on special education because of sequestration cuts to the Department of Education, according to online reports.

“We could come back in and fix those areas” which are hurt by the cuts, Griffith said. “These are things we would have to shake out,” and those are the issues that Congress needs to see to set priorities.

For instance, a nearly $69.5 million program to ensure wild horses and burros have retirement homes could be done away with to ensure funds are available for schools and children, Griffith said.

“Do we chose horses or children,” he asked rhetorically. “I would choose children.”

“ … We’ve already raised the debt ceiling once based on this money being cut” and without sequestration or another plan in place, “we are going to be in a a position where we have to raise it again. We can’t keep doing that. Sequestration is not a desirable plan, but it is a plan,” Griffith said.

Immigration should be a simpler process, and include three criteria to be met by a potential immigrant: A certified job opening that an American cannot fill, a place to live and someone who will act as a sponsor for two years, Griffith said.

“I think we can pay” for that “in large measure with making the system a lot simpler. We could get rid if a lot of ICE agents (U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement),” he said. Also, some of the 23,400 troops returning to the U.S. could be given jobs as border security patrol.

“I think we need to go in and change a lot of things we’ve been doing,” Griffith said. “I definitely think we have to secure the borders.”

He supports construction of a high tech fence along the southern border, and said if someone started to dig a tunnel, “we could send our military out there to check” on it.

He also agrees with a plan developed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. That plan includes steps to give 12 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, a series of bills to reform the process rather than an omnibus bill, and legal status specifically for young illegal immigrants (called Dreamers) who came to the United States as children.

Griffith said he thinks mental health is the centerpiece in any discussion to curb gun violence, and he supports federal funding to increase accessibility to mental health services.

“I don’t support all the bans (on guns) that are being talked about, but I think we need to take a serious look at the mental health side, eliminate the stigma and get the help for those folks who have severe mental health issues,” he said.

 

 
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