Count Kim Surritt among the Arizonans bracing for federal spending cuts that will take effect today barring compromise between President Barack Obama and the House Republican leadership over a plan to reduce the national debt.
Surritt owns Kim’s Custom Tailor, which is across the street from Luke Air Force Base in Glendale.
“I rely a lot on the people at the base. If they get their jobs cut or a pay cut, that could affect my shop as well,” she said.
The White House estimates that in Arizona 10,000 civilian defense workers could be forced to take unpaid time off because of the mandatory budget reductions known as the “sequester.” Obama administration officials also said Arizona will see program cuts in senior nutrition, student work-study jobs and assistance for victims of domestic violence.
Some of Arizona’s high-profile losses would include $49 million in Army and Air Force operations and $52 million in lost pay for furloughed Department of Defense employees.
Luke Air Force Base has already taken steps to trim its spending. Its annual air show, which draws thousands of spectators, was canceled last month and non-critical services, training and travel has been curtailed. More than 850 civilian employees at the base face furloughs, according to a base spokesman.
Lek Cochran, who own’s Sage & Sand Barbershop, moved into her business next door to Luke six months ago.
Cochran said she has heard “rumors” about the cuts but doesn’t want to focus on them.
“They haven’t happened yet and hopefully they won’t,” she said. “We have done pretty well so far, and we really don’t know what the future holds. I am just taking it one day a time.”
But Glendale Councilman Sam Chavira said Thursday night that he “wants to be on top of it because I want the best not only for our city, for our state and for Luke, and for everybody who is affected by the sequester. I am trying to find out everything that comes with it.”
Fellow Councilman Ian Hugh said he is concerned that Luke has had to cancel its annual open house. “That was a great event for the Valley and for the Air Force.”
Like Luke Days being cut, other slashes will be visible immediately, such as at the Grand Canyon, where park officials cannot hire seasonal workers to help with the expected jump in visitors during spring break season. That could mean no lecture programs, shorter visitor center hours, longer lines at entrance stations and fewer maintenance workers.
“There is a really good chance that you would see those impacts right away,” said Maureen Oltrogge, a park spokeswoman. “If you don’t have a clean bathroom, that’s not the experience you want to have.”
Federal employee furloughs could begin in mid-April. Social Security, Medicaid, Pell Grants, federal highway construction and school nutrition aid are exempt from the cuts.
“In the short term, it is a yellow flag kind of warning,” said Stephen Fuller, a George Mason University professor who has studied the potential effects of the sequestration nationally and in Arizona. But if Congress doesn’t act soon, “there will be less spending, and ultimately that will cost more jobs,” Fuller said.
“There’s a sense that some of the reductions could happen sooner rather than later,” said John Arnold, the state budget director.
As for Surritt who has been on the west side “for 25 years when there was barely anything out here,” she’ll wait patiently for now as the budget battle plays out in the nation’s capital.
“Right now, we shouldn’t get worried because we just have wait and see what will happen and how all of that is going to trickle down.”
Reporter Tina Gamez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.