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Local governments warned to consider cuts as 'fiscal cliff' approaches

Wednesday - 10/10/2012, 4:38pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The clock continues to tick towards Jan. 1, 2013 when a mandatory 10 percent cut in the federal budget is scheduled to kick in.

The $1.2 trillion cuts will hit federal workers and contractors, and the Pentagon hard. But local D.C. leaders say it will also deeply cut or eliminate funding to much smaller programs that they will either have to pay for or end.

"The question is not what programs it's gonna hit? It's what programs is sequestration not going to hit?" says Prince William County Supervisor Frank Principi, who is also the chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

"I think it's gonna be very wide and very deep. We need to know that now and deal with it," he says.

It's been called a "fiscal cliff" because many people will be left dangling if the cuts are made.

It's estimated 207,000 Virginians and 114,000 Marylanders, mostly federal workers and private contractors, could lose their jobs if the cuts are made.

But for local leaders, like Fairfax County Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova, it also means devastating cuts to programs like head start.

"If they are not funded at the federal level or state level you get to the local level and we're left with real live people who need services," she says.

The Council of Governments is advising local governments to start making preparations now for what services they can fund and which ones will have to be eliminated.

The law passed earlier this year when no specific plan to cut the federal deficit could be drawn up by Congress and it was supposed to give a super-committee incentive to reach a deal. It didn't.

Congress can still repeal the law mandating the cuts but that won't even be attempted until the lame duck session begins on Nov. 12, after the general election.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)