Rep. Lois Capps said Thursday that a mix of budget cuts and tax increases are the answer to averting the impending $1.2 trillion in automatic reductions in federal defense and domestic spending known as sequestration.
Speaking in an interview during a week of touring her Central Coast district, the nine-term Santa Barbara Democrat said the cuts set to kick in next week have her “frustrated” and “speechless.”
She said she hopes Republicans and Democrats can come together on a compromise before it’s too late to avoid the economic impact the sequester would have on an already fragile economy.
“Clearly we don’t want to overburden taxpayers, but the deficit is large,” Capps said. “We can cut, but there are people who are dependent on our resources.”
The sequester stems from a summer 2011 deal between President Barack Obama and Congress that aims to reduce the national deficit by requiring the government to trim spending on programs including education and research and development.
Predictions are that those cuts would lead to the furlough of thousands of employees and sharply reduce military spending — affecting local federal workers such as those at Vandenberg Air Force Base and national forest employees.
Clearly more relaxed than she was before November’s election, in which she beat challenger Abel Maldonado in the newly reconfigured 24th District, Capps expanded on topics including immigration reform, gun control and clean energy.
The 24th District, which was formerly the 23rd District, now includes all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties and a small portion of Ventura County as a result of redistricting after the 2010 Census.
On immigration reform, Capps called for giving people who have been in the United States illegally an avenue to achieve citizenship, combined with a temporary worker permit for the agricultural and possibly the hospitality industries.
She said a secure border is critical, and that “our border has never been as strong as it is right now.”
She noted that growers are facing a shortage of skilled labor in part because of border restrictions, and they want to see the system fixed.
“It’s in their best interest, actually,” she said. “They can’t count on the work force they used to be able to. ... Now Mexico has its eye on that population (of workers) too” as its own economy expands.
Addressing what she calls gun safety, Capps said she would like universal background checks for people trying to buy guns, and restrictions on high-capacity magazines.
She described a recent discussion with a Buellton man on the topic that developed during a recent “Congress on Your Corner” event.
Capps said a man who hung back during the talk came forward afterward and asked “Why do you want to take my guns?”
“I said I have no interest in taking your guns,” Capps said, “but the perception is such. The 2nd Amendment is there, it’s not going to change.”
Capps acknowledged that “criminals will always get their hands on guns.”
“I have no objections to law-abiding gun use,” she said. “We’re not talking about doing anything that’s not already in effect in California (where rules are already more strict than in the rest of the country), and we seem to be living OK with it. I think if we did one or two of those things we will have made some good steps forward.”
Capps also said she supports the clean energy initiative outlined by Obama in his State of the Union speech, but said what impact it might have locally remains to be seen.
“It’s still a wide open country in terms of where these things can happen,” she said. “We need more emphasis. We still subsidize oil and gas, much to my dismay. We’ve never given much of an incentive to renewable energy sources. Let’s be fair here.”