ThinkProgress noted earlier that failing to raise the federal debt ceiling could have severe impacts on state budgets, as state government could see billions of dollars of federal aid vanish overnight. But forcing the federal government to implement a 40 percent budget cut overnight — which is what it would have to do were the debt ceiling not raised — would also adversely impact local government. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is convening this week in Los Angeles, where it will urge Congress to strike a deal to raise the debt ceiling, thus avoiding foisting more pain onto local governments.
Today, we spoke with the conference’s vice president — Scott Smith, the Republican mayor of Mesa, Arizona — who said that failure to raise the debt ceiling is going to severely impact his city’s ability to care for its most vulnerable residents:
Anything that upsets the potential for any kind of recovery creates huge problems for the city… We’re sort of at the bottom of the food chin. When you have someone out of work, when you have someone who’s homeless, when you have someone with mental health issues, any interruption, anything that disrupts the economy, hurts our ability to help them.
Many of the social ills that we experience, you can’t just ignore. We have people who are homeless, we have people who are unemployed. They don’t just go away when governments cut their budgets…These are human beings, they still have needs, they still have problems…Our biggest concern is when there’s an across the board cut in spending without thinking about these different needs, you end up paying more.
Mesa is the 38th largest city in the U.S., and the Phoenix-Mesa metro area currently has an unemployment rate of 8 percent.
Smith blamed both parties for the standstill over the debt ceiling, but urged a balanced approach to resolve the issue, saying, “We hope that at the end of the day both sides come together and recognize that there does need to be a balanced approach, because a balanced approach is what solves the problem.” “The reality is the Republicans aren’t going to get 100 percent of what they want and the Democrats aren’t going to get 100 percent of what they want,” Smith has said previously.