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Union leaders, along with Congressman Scott Peters and Congresswoman Susan Davis, stages a press conference downtown this morning (August 22) calling for an end to what Peters termed “mindless, across-the-board, non-mission-based cuts” in federal spending, commonly referred to as sequestration.

Over 25,000 San Diegans are affected by sequestration, Peters says, which includes cuts to early education programs and pay cuts for civilian Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees.

“Federal employees are not the reason we have a [federal budget] deficit, and I’ll be damned if we’re the ones to have to pay it down,” said George McCubbin, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees union, noting that most employees had already been on a three-year-long pay freeze before the cuts, which he says contributed $100 million toward deficit reduction alone. “It’s not our responsibility.”

Davis blamed cuts for hindering the local economy, saying that most of the affected workers were from middle-class families whose incomes were mostly poured back into local businesses, who in turn would bear part of the burden of reduced spending.

“Asking people to just cut across the board does not make sense,” Davis insisted. “I have not had one member of Congress from either side of the aisle believe [sequestration] is a good step.”

Peters, during his turn at the podium, called for the appointment of a bipartisan team of budget negotiators to reconcile differences between budgets passed by the House and Senate to end sequestration. The House proposal aims to restore military spending while avoiding tax increases by making even deeper cuts to domestic spending, while the Senate plan favors a mix of new taxes on the wealthy, closing of other tax loopholes, and restoring some funding to domestic programs while cutting military budgets even further.

“What we can’t do is continue on this path,” Peters said. “We can’t let sequestration become the new normal . . . [federal] employees did not create this fiscal mess, they should not be forced to pay for Congress’ inability to cooperate.”

Richard Barrera, a San Diego Unified School District trustee and the new face of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, said he was “wearing two hats,” speaking both for union workers and the families of school-age children. Barrera lamented cuts to early education programs such as Head Start and First Five, saying that low-income students unable to take advantage of programs preparing them for school would face tougher odds down the road.

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