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Governors Convene For Winter Meeting, Urge Budget Agreement

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Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (center) at the National Governors Association winter meeting on Feb. 23, 2013.
Matt Laslo
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (center) at the National Governors Association winter meeting on Feb. 23, 2013.

Governors from across the United States are in Washington, D.C. this week for the National Governors Association winter meeting, and many are asking Congress and the White House to put politics aside and work out a long-term budget deal.

The nation's 50 governors are arguably all the most powerful person in their respective state. And whether they like to admit it or not, they all depend on Uncle Sam for a lot of money each year.

That's why most of them don't like sequestration — the $85 billion in budget cuts slated to hit the federal government next Friday. Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley says there's a lot of collective head scratching going on amongst the nation's governors.

"I think we're all trying to get our heads around where these cuts actually fall," says O'Malley. He says it's unacceptable that lawmakers aren't seriously negotiating a way to avoid sequestration. "I'd like to see them come back to the table and figure out an honorable compromise here."

The doomsday scenario that lawmakers from both parties are painting seems like it will hit this week. Sequestration will take $85 billion from federal agencies on March 1, which means cuts to housing, education, the Pentagon, and its contractors will go into effect across the region.

O'Malley says the indiscriminate nature of the budget cuts could really cripple the area. "My biggest concern is that it's a jobs killer," he says. "That it will kill jobs in our region. It will kill jobs by depressing consumer confidence and business confidence."

But a growing number of Republicans seem resigned to the cuts. Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith opposed the Budget Control Act that set up sequestration, but he says to get the debt in order, it may be necessary to trigger those cuts.

"While I would rather see targeted cuts, if the best we can do is something like sequestration, maybe we have to do that and then re-assess where we're at," says Griffith.

Lawmakers have until Friday to avert the budget cuts. If Congress doesn't act, hundreds of thousands of government employees and contractors face furlough days, which will likely mean less economic activity in the region.

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