(WMAZ): Partnership, Congressional leaders hoping to avoid shutdown at Robins
The government shutdown could hurt Robins Air Force Base and the city, according to the 21st Century Partnership and U.S. Congressman from the Eighth District, Austin Scott.
A looming Friday night deadline to reach an agreement on funding the Federal Government has Central Georgia leaders anxious as they say even a short shutdown could hurt.
Robins Air Force Base dealt with sequestration budget cuts in 2011 and a 16-day shutdown in 2013.
People who were around at the time, like businessman Jim Taylor, say it caused hesitation in construction and bank loans. He said it also created anxiety around town.
“Anytime there's a hiccup on the Base, it's really a tsunami in the community,” Taylor said Thursday.
However, he said he was more optimistic this time around because in his opinion, the U.S. economy is in a better spot than it was in 2010-2013.
Georgia's Eighth District United States congressman Austin Scott says his office has heard concerns from the people who work here.
“We have gotten calls from people there that are in contracting and other things making sure that we understand the impact of it and how inefficient it is in their operations. It hurts the people that work at the Base, it hurts the morale of the base, it hurts the efficiency of the base,” Scott told us over the phone.
He also did not hold back in criticizing Democrats, who he claims are holding military funding hostage.
“It is ridiculous that the Democrats have now taken the position that if you don’t give us an agreement on DACA, that we won’t agree to fund the military at the level that quite honestly has already been signed into law,” Scott continued.
DACA is an immigration issue.
The Republican Congressman also expressed some frustration with Senate Republicans who he says have failed to pass budgeting measures that have passed the House in the past, including some that passed last July.
“Senator [Mitch] McConnell, by maintaining the 60-vote rule on this stuff, that is what has given [Congresswoman Nancy] Pelosi and [Senator Chuck] Schumer the leverage that they have,” Scott said.
Scott continued, saying he had made his frustration known to Georgia Senators David Perdue and Johnny Isakson. But, he said Georgia was blessed to have the two good Senators.
In a series of emails, Perdue’s staff directed us to the Senator’s former testimony on the issue.
“Congress has defrauded the American people, and worse, has defrauded, in my opinion, our men and women in uniform for the last 43 years. In the last 43 years, our budget process has only funded the federal government four times,” Perdue said during an Armed Services hearing.
At other times, according to his staff, Senator Perdue has criticized Continuing Resolutions, often known as CRs.
CRs provide temporary approval for federal spending. A CR is what is currently being debated in Washington D.C., if unapproved, it would lead to a shutdown Friday night just after midnight.
In a shutdown, all non-essential employees are told to stay home and are not paid. Military personnel are told to work and are also often unpaid.
Director of Strategy for 21st Century Partnership, Dan Rhoades, worked on the Base when the shutdown happened in 2013.
He agreed with Scott that a shutdown can disrupt a Base's efficiency. He specifically mentioned training of new employees, maintenance on aircraft, contracts and parts purchasing. But, that’s not all, he said it also can take a toll on the local economy.
“I was certainly limiting my purchases in town. So, when we see that, especially, the small businesses are going to see an impact because they're going to see less foot traffic, people are going to be less willing to spend what limited funds they have in the bank because they don't know when their next paycheck is coming around,” Rhoades said in his office Thursday.
Rhoades said once a shutdown takes place there's no guarantee on how long it actually lasts, which can take a mental toll.
“You've told people they're going to be out of a job and it's unknown when they'll be back. Psychologically that's devastating,” Rhoades told WMAZ.
Rhoades said he was eventually given back pay for that 16-day period in 2013, but it took about a month and a half. Congress has normally approved back pay, but it is not guaranteed, according to Rhoades.
The Director also said CRs are not the best answer either, agreeing with Perdue and Scott. He says they add to uncertainty.