Virginia is set to hurl over a "fiscal cliff" on Jan. 1 if lawmakers in Washington cannot come up with a deal before then to stop nearly $500 billion in cuts in military spending put in place by last summer's deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
A recent study sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association estimates that in the worst case scenario the commonwealth could lose more than 207,000 jobs including more than 136,000 defense-related jobs due to the results of the debt-ceiling deal known as sequestration. The study says the automatic cuts designed to rein in a roughly $1.2 trillion federal deficit and a national debt that just topped $16 trillion could plunge the state into a decade-long deep recession.
The sequestration cuts would come on top of $487 billion in budget cuts to the military worked out this year between President Barack Obama and the Department of Defense.
Hampton Roads, where federal spending on the military makes up 45 percent of the region's economy, will be hit particularly hard.
No one expects a deal to stave-off sequestration — which cuts roughly $1.2 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years — to be reached until after the Nov. 6 election.
As Virginians prepare to head to the polls to cast their ballots for president, a new U.S. senator and local members of Congress, the parties have drawn lines in the sand over the issue.
Obama has said he will veto any plan to stop sequestration that does not include revenue increases in addition to spending cuts. As part of attempts to control the debt and deficit the president is pushing Congress to let the President George W. Bush-era tax cuts expire for people making more than $250,000 a year.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, have said military cuts and tax increases are off-the-table. Both have also promised to increase military spending — though they haven't said where the money will come from — and to offer additional tax cuts for the nation's highest income earners.
Both parties lay the blame for the impending, arbitrary cuts on the other side.
The Romney campaign and its surrogates blame Obama for the debt deal saying the president put forth the proposal passed last summer. The Romney campaign began airing a television ad in Virginia Friday that refers to sequestration as "(Obama's) defense cuts."
However the proposal was spearheaded by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Richmond, and supported at the time by Congressional Republicans as well as Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Jesse Richman, professor of political science at Old Dominion University, and Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, say both parties share the blame in creating the sequestration scenario.
"Both sides have blood on their hands, or mud on their faces, on this one," Kidd said. "Sequestration is not solely the president's doing or the Democrats' doing. Nor is it solely the Republicans' doing or Congress' doing. It was an agreement."
Richman said the sequestration deal was designed to force both Republicans and Democrats to put things "they hold dear" on the table in the hopes a congressional super committee created last fall would come up with a comprehensive plan to avoid the arbitrary cuts.
For Republicans that included military spending; for Democrats it included social-safety net programs like Medicaid. Medicare and Social Security were kept out of bounds as part of what Kidd called "a guillotine" designed to force the super committee to come up with a reasonable debt and deficit reduction plan.
Richman said the super committee was designed to fail as both parties packed it with lawmakers who were ideologically entrenched.
Kidd and Richman said both parties are waiting for the outcome of the elections to see which way the political wind is blowing before they make compromises in a lame-duck session.
Both are optimistic the results will bolster the power base of one party or the other enough to set the stage for a deal to avoid the sequestration cuts, which they said neither party wants.