By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — North Country Congressman Bill Owens says a long-term deal on sequestration probably won’t happen until Congress finally realizes how much the cuts are hurting people.
“I think a number of people in Congress don’t really believe the impact of this will be as great,” Owens told reporters in a telephone news conference Thursday.
“They will see how much impact it has, and then they will be pressed to take action.”
The $85 billion sequestration takes effect today and means automatic cuts to numerous government agencies and programs.
Owens (D-Plattsburgh) said Thursday that Congress and the White House didn’t seem to be close to reaching a deal to avoid the action.
“There are still some conversations going on, but no pieces of legislation that I am aware of.”
Sequestration could mean furloughs for government workers at Fort Drum in Watertown and the federal prison in Ray Brook, among others, he said.
Owens said it could take 30 to 60 days for agencies to sort out how they are going to deal with the cuts and whether they will have furloughs.
If people are furloughed, it will have a ripple effect, Owens said.
“Many people will be adversely affected by this. It will be very broad sweeping, and it will touch everyone to a greater or lesser degree, and it will roll out into the local economy.”
The Joint Chiefs said this week that having civilian workers furloughed at military bases like Fort Drum could cause serious problems, Owens said.
“The Joint Chiefs said they (civilian workers) are incredibly important to mission completion.”
Owens said Congress needs to put aside partisan politics and come up with a long-term plan that will address all levels, with Simpson-Bowles as a guideline.
The Simpson-Bowles plan was devised by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the president’s Deficit Commission. Their latest plan calls for $3 trillion in spending cuts and revenue increases of about $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years.
“We ... do need more revenue,” Owens said. “But we do need to get our arms around spending.”
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