Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Imagine the economy in our state losing $800 million. With military bases like Fort Jackson, Shaw and McEntire, the economy could take that big hit if sequestration takes effect in January.
Sequestration is $1 trillion in budget cuts that will happen automatically over the next decade, unless alternatives are agreed upon. They're a result of last year's supercommittee failure to make necessary budget cuts.
It's an issue Senator Lindsey Graham has been talking about for some time and says that he's willing to compromise to avoid such across the board cuts, but he worries that other lawmakers won't be.
"Sequestration in latin means 'dumb politicians destroying defense," he told the media today, adding that Congress had already agreed to $487 million in strategic defense cuts, "It's not like we're giving the defense department a pass. We're trying to reform business practices - instead of having cost-plus contracts to build the F-35, we want a fixed-price contract."
Graham says the $110 billion in cuts that sequestration would make in just the first year are unplanned cuts. Cuts that Governor Nikki Haley says would be devastating to South Carolina's economy. "Almost 14,000 jobs cut, $800 million in lost earnings. Think about that for the state of South Carolina, when we have a budget of $5 billion. $800 million of lost earning," she said.
Even without the economy factor, Adjutant General Robert Livingston says the armed forces won't be able to do their jobs with that kind of hit to their budget. "We, as South Carolina, and we, as Department of Defense, cannot take this cut that is not planned, not systematic, and still provide the level of quality service," he says.
Graham knows that politicians are to blame, but hopes that some will be able to right the ship before it's too late. "I'm working with a handful of democrats and republicans in the Senate to try to find a substitution for sequestration that makes sense," he says, "So I'm here today to challenge Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to dedicate one week in September - and we're doing nothing important, trust me - one week in September to allow different view of how to deal with this problem to come to the floor of the United States Senate for a vote."
Other programs, like Medicare, would also be affected.
Senator Graham told News19 that it's all about compromise: closing tax loopholes to raise revenue, instead of raising taxes. And he said he hopes both Democrats and Republicans will put their talking points aside for the men and women in uniform.