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Phoenix mayor in D.C. to warn of automatic federal budget cuts’ impact

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WASHINGTON – Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton was in Washington Wednesday for the third time in two months to highlight the damage automatic spending cuts will have to jobs and communities if Congress does not stop the budget “sequestration.”

At a rally outside the Capitol Wednesday, Stanton joined Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and other Democrats to call for a “balanced” approach to heading off the automatic sequestration cuts.

“We will not do it without asking the richest people in America to give a little bit more to help settle this deficit problem,” Harkin said to a crowd of several hundred who were carrying signs urging support for non-defense programs.

Stanton’s previous visits have focused on the damage that proposed defense cuts could do to the economy – a recent report said Arizona could lose 49,000 jobs under proposed defense cuts – but this time it was more about the threat to other programs.

Stanton and Harkin highlighted the impact threatened budget cuts will have on those served by non-defense programs, like the Head Start program for low-income children and the Department of Education.

“There is nothing more important to the national defense of this country than a strong education system,” said Stanton, who chairs a defense transition task force for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

All of Stanton’s visits have been in response to the across-the-board federal budget cuts that are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 2, with half of the cuts coming from defense spending and the other half from domestic programs.

The so-called budget sequestration cuts are harsh by design: They were to take effect only if a congressional “super committee” last year was not able to find $1.2 trillion in long-term debt reduction. The committee failed to reach agreement, starting the clock on the cuts.

As he has said on previous visits, Stanton said Wednesday that spending cuts are necessary but they need to be done in a balanced, bipartisan way and not through the automatic budget sequestration “hammer.”

Harkin’s office released a report estimating the jobs that would be lost and the decrease in people who would be served by more than 30 health, education and employment programs if sequestration goes through.

The report claims that the economic effect of cuts to non-defense programs “could be worse” than cuts to defense spending. It claims that $1 billion spent on education creates more jobs than $1 billon spent on defense.

“Those job-training programs that were mentioned by the senator are more important than ever to advance this economy … to move those displaced workers” into jobs, Stanton said.

Arizona’s Head Start program would lose 316 jobs and serve 1,517 fewer children, Harkin’s report also said. Head Start helps low-income children age 5 and younger get ready for school.

“I can’t run a city that I want to run it … if we slash and burn Head Start. That’s our future,” Stanton said.

At a time when the national unemployment rate is still above 8 percent, the report estimates that 1.6 million fewer job seekers nationwide would get training and education from the Labor Department under the sequester cuts.

In Arizona, the cut would translate into over 23,000 fewer job seekers being served according to the report.