149 Mayors Call for a Debt Deal

The United States Conference of Mayors has written a letter signed by 149 mayors across the country, a bipartisan collection including the likes of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. The letter urges Congress to replace the sequester with a bipartisan, comprehensive deal that gradually stabilizes debt and puts it on a downward path as a share of the economy. These mayors understand the tough choices that need to be made, since cities are generally required to run balanced budgets.

As elected leaders of local communities across the nation, we fully understand the need for fiscal responsibility and the tough choices that are required to achieve a balanced budget. We have also been forced to make challenging, even painful, cuts during this economic downturn. In the coming months, as you address both short- and long-term federal fiscal challenges, we urge you to adopt a bipartisan and balanced approach to deficit reduction by incorporating spending cuts with additional revenue from sources such as tax code reform and closing unfair corporate tax loopholes.

The need for a comprehensive debt deal is further underscored by the consequences of fiscal cliff for cities. The mayors emphasize the harmful effects the cuts to discretionary spending would have on city programs, as well as the overall damaging effect of the fiscal cliff on the economy.

We are particularly concerned with deep reductions in non-defense discretionary spending, one-third of which is directed to state and local programs: 36 percent is directed to education; 28 percent to housing and community development; 18 percent to health and the environment; ten percent to workforce; and five percent to public safety and disaster response. The additional cuts scheduled to occur through sequestration will bring domestically appropriated funding well below historical levels as a share of the economy, forcing inevitable cuts to a number of critical local services and dramatic job losses for teachers, first responders, and health care workers.

We also share the concern expressed by many of your colleagues and industry stakeholders over the impact of sequestration on our military forces and national security; however, the impact will extend far beyond the Department of Defense and related activities. The defense industry, military personnel and innovative research underway at institutions of higher education are significant contributors to many of our metro economies. Nearly half of the estimated job loss and personal earnings reductions will occur in the defense industry; many of these job losses will occur in the civilian sector.

We recognize the need for the federal government to get its fiscal house in order. We encourage you to work together to find a bipartisan and balanced solution to achieve deficit reduction that facilitates, not undermines, economic growth.

While it is expected that the mayors would speak out against sequestration, it is good to see their enthusiasm for a comprehensive and bipartisan solution to rising debt. Congress should take their advice. Just as city halls set five year budgets, we need our leaders in Congress to put aside differences and provide a long-term plan to reduce the debt in a thoughtful and gradual way.

The full letter can be found here.