Q: What are you hearing from your constituents about sequestration concerns?
A: “Where are the grownups?! I don’t think most folks are focusing on the economic or political impact, although there are certainly concerns about furloughs and potential job losses from those who work for the Federal Government or contractors that do business with the Federal Government. Most people seem to be shrugging their shoulders and commenting on Washington idiocy.”
Q: As the supervisor of the Lee District, where most of Fairfax County’s federal jobs are located, what are you most concerned about?
“The financial impact primarily—while we are seeing a great deal of caution in the business community, the direct impact on the county will come next year. And the longer the sequestration (or other deep cuts) goes on, the harder the impact will be.
My biggest concern is the economic impact—not only what we may lose directly from capital appropriations and grants, but also the trickle-down effect. What will we lose from the state as it, in turn, loses federal funding?
Our Fairfax County general fund is heavily dependent on real and personal property taxes, as well as sales taxes. If residents cut back on expenses, we’ll feel that. And should the still shaky economic recovery head back into recession, property values would tank—and that would be a direct economic hit. (About 76 percent of our General Fund comes from those sources.)
The corrosive impact to faith in our government is one of the non-tangibles that concern me. When people’s health, safety and livelihood are threatened by political behavior that my kids know better than to engage in, we have a serious problem and one that could take a generation for recovery.”
Q: What is the worst-case scenario for our area?
A: “Recession—with everything that implies at the government, business and personnel level. Also, it could accelerate the loss of smaller businesses that do not have the wherewithal to hold out until we get past this period.”
Q: It’s hard to imagine, but are there any impacts we haven’t considered?
A: “The law of unintended consequences is alive and well. We could be hit with severe weather like the derecho or snowmaggedon. Or any other natural or man-made disaster. Most of the discussion seems to be around the financial impact. I think we need also to consider the impact on our social compact—it is not a good thing when people see their government as a bunch of buffoons.”
Q: What do you think puts Fairfax County in a strong or weak position in terms of weathering the storm?
A: “Even though our economy has such strong ties to federal contracting and procurement, we have been diversifying for years and are well positioned to grow. The opening of the Silver Line is a definite plus. The good news is that Fairfax County’s General Fund only receives about 1 percent of its budget from the Federal Government and our revenue stream is fairly resilient. The bad news is that residents and businesses within the county will also be affected and that will affect growth and substantial recovery in the real estate market, consumer consumption and business expansion. Contraction or even no growth in these components of the county’s economy will negatively affect real estate, personal property, sales, and Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax revenues.