Most Marylanders sense the state’s economy will be hard hit — and their own finances squeezed — should the series of deep federal spending cuts known as the sequester start as planned on Friday.
In a new Washington Post Maryland poll, fully 78 percent of state residents see the planned cuts to defense and domestic spending as having a negative effect on the state’s still sluggish economy. And 59 percent anticipate feeling the pinch in their pocketbooks.
The Obama administration and congressional Republicans have been trading blame for the impending cuts, which would impact nearly every government program and corner of the country. States like Maryland and Virginia, with their concentrations of federal agencies and workers, are expected to take the biggest blow.
On Sunday, the White House released a breakdown of how cuts would likely affect each state. In Maryland, for example, 46,000 civilian Defense Department employees could be furloughed, while 800 children could be kicked out of Head Start and 200 teachers or teachers’ aides could lose their jobs.
Among Maryland’s sizable share of federal employees, the sense of foreboding is deep. Those who work for the federal government — or live with someone who does — are particularly apt to see adverse effects on their family’s finances and the state’s economy more broadly.
In Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, the state’s counties closest to Washington, D.C., more than two in 10 live in households with at least one federal employee. From the National Institutes of Health to Andrews Air Force Base, the suburbs are packed with job-generating government installations.
Partisan affiliation makes little difference when it comes to thinking about the potential impact of the cuts. Large majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike see negative consequences for the Maryland economy if the planned, automatic cuts take effect on March 1. There is also cross-party agreement about the negative effect on personal finances.
In part because of its proximity to the nation’s capital, Marylanders are also somewhat more likely than those across the country to anticipate seeing an impact on their personal finances. Overall, 38 percent of Marylanders say the sequester will have a “major effect” on their family’s finances, with the number jumping to 57 percent among those in households with one or more federal employees. A new national poll by the Washington Post and the Pew Research Center finds 30 percent of all Americans anticipating a big effect on their wallets.
Having heard the complaints of their constituents for weeks, nine of the state’s 10 members of Congress — all Democrats — issued a statement Monday calling on the Republican-controlled House to take action to avert the looming cuts.
“Unless Congress acts, sequestration would have a serious and disproportionate impact on job creation and economic growth in Maryland,” they wrote. “The 60 non-military federal facilities and 17 military facilities in Maryland would see their ability to conduct operations significantly erode.”
The state’s lone Republican member of Congress, Rep. Andy Harris, issued his own statement Friday casting the blame on Democrats.
“House Republicans have already passed two bills that would offset President Obama’s sequester set to take effect on March 1,” Harris said. “The Senate has failed to pass anything and in fact President Obama and Senate Democrats have failed to even put a plan forward. The House has done its job, the Senate and the President have not.”
The Washington Post Maryland poll was conducted Feb. 21-24, among a random sample of 1,156 adults. The margin of sampling error for the full poll is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Cohen is director of polling for Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media.