Virginia Secretary of Finance Ric Brown said it is too early to put a dollar figure on how much the state could lose if, as a result of this week's “supercommittee” failure, the federal government slashes defense spending and domestic programs.
But it’s clear which part of that equation concerns Brown most.
“On the domestic side, we’re a little bit fortunate,”Brown said in an interview after the congressional debt-curbing committee threw up its hands.
“We are not a big consumer of federal direct grants. We’re 49th [out of the 50 states]. ... If that federal money dried up, the General Assembly would probably have to replace some of that. But it’s certainly not dollar for dollar. Virginia has a long tradition of not replacing federal funding.”
Slashed defense spending, and the toll that would take on Virginia military installations and defense contractors, would be much harder to take, he said.
“Because the seat of government is right at our doorstep, the federal government has a major role” in Virginia’s economy,” Brown said. “It makes a heck of a lot of difference to Virginia what area you cut.”
Defense cuts would not necessarily hurt Virginia, at least not in the short term, he said. If cuts lead to consolidation of military installations, the state could wind up gaining jobs, as it did under the Base Realignment and Closure process, Brown said. And some military contracts, such as ship-building for the Navy, are unlikely to be broken, he said.
“You have to get out to 2018 before you start to feel the pinch on that [ship-building],” he said.
But steep cuts are likely to hurt the state eventually, and perhaps dramatically, he said.
“Sooner or later, it catches up with us,” he said. “It’s not so much immediately. It’s the longer term. ... There are going to be cutbacks and that will affect Virginia in the longer haul because the federal government is a big part of our economy.”