SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday he expects the automatic cuts in federal spending known as sequestration to take effect Friday and compared the gridlock in Washington, D.C., to a bad marriage.
Unless Congress and President Barack Obama can agree on a package of spending cuts and tax increases, sequestration is expected to take away some $40 million from the nearly $13 billion upcoming state budget.
And new estimates of revenue growth in the budget year that begins July 1 have already been adjusted to account for a loss of income and sales taxes because civilian employees at Hill Air Force Base and other military installations would be furloughed under sequestration.
Herbert said he was glad to be back in Utah, "where things really do function correctly and we get things done," after spending the past few days in Washington with other governors observing firsthand the lack of progress on avoiding sequestration.
"The only way I can describe it was it's kind of like a bad marriage," he said. "There's not a lot of good communications going on. There are different perceptions that all sides have. There is certainly no agreement on solutions, and it's always the other one's fault."
What Washington needs, the governor said, is counseling.
"The governors tried to step up," he told reporters during a media availability. "But it's disappointing in many ways that we're going to head toward this sequestration that's going to take place March 1, and I really don't see anything to avert it, frankly."
Herbert said when he had the opportunity with other governors to meet with the president, Obama stressed there's no need for sequestration.
"He's right. We don't need it," the governor said. "But as I suggested, there is maybe no need for the sequestration, but there is certainly a need for spending cuts. The federal government is not living within its means. It's expanding beyond most peoples' desires. It's trying to do too much for too many and spending too much money in the process."
As he did in an interview Monday on CNN, Herbert called for a change in Washington's "sky-is-falling" attitude toward spending cuts.
"It seems like in Washington, D.C., there's a mindset that if you cut the budget, somehow automatically bad things will happen," Herbert said. Instead, he said, cuts can make government more efficient.
"If they don't understand that," the governor said, "we're never going to get our fiscal house in order."
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