SARASOTA - The countdown to budget cuts called sequestration has only a few hours left. As President Obama held a news conference in Washnigton to blame Republicans, Congressman Vern Buchanan was on the Suncoast, saying the president has overblown the problem.
Buchanan held a town hall meeting about transportation in a small auditorium at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, but the questions of the day dealt with sequestration, which could impact many things, including travel.
“This is being overplayed, I think. They can find the cuts. Families and small businesses have found the cuts the last 3-4 years,” said Buchanan.
He says the president has discretion to make the budget cuts less painful than they could be. But Friday the president warned again that cutting less than 3% of federal spending will have widespread consequences. “It's going to hurt individual people, and it's going to hurt the economy overall.”
The president says the sequester will cost 750,000 jobs, and that everything from classroom education to airport security will suffer, too.
Republicans say they don't like the structure of the cuts either, but they like even less the president's insistence that higher taxes accompany any cuts in spending. “He got his tax increases at the end of the year. We're talking about cutting spending,” says Buchanan.
So while one side tries to turn the pressure up with the drumbeat of calamity to get its way -- "The longer these cuts remain in place, the greater the damage to our economy, a slow grind that will intensify with each passing day," says Obama -- the other side seems equally resolved to resist, to get its way. “In the last ten years we've increased the budget by 100%. We're asking for a 2.5% cut. We've even mentioned to the president, if he doesn't like the cuts, make some cuts somewhere else,” says Buchanan.
Although the cuts go into effect by midnight Friday night, it could take months before anyone feels their effects.
ABC 7 did talk to airport president Rick Piccolo, who says that no cuts are slated there, but that cuts at other airports could have a ripple effect that reaches here, and that furloughs to TSA workers could cause longer security lines.
But after eleventh hour deals in previous crises, it looks like both sides have dug in their heels this time.