SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert used some colorful language to describe sequestration Thursday, saying "it's butt-biting time" because the federal government has failed to live within its means.
"We have been preaching from the state of Utah for a long time about the need to be fiscally prudent," Herbert said during a media availability at the Capitol. "You cannot spend more than you take in. You cannot continue to borrow more than is appropriate. You cannot, in today's environment, borrow 40 cents of every dollar you're spending and not have some day that you're going to have to pay the piper.
Pay cuts to 20 to 30 percent await 15,000 workers at Hill Air Force Base if Congress and the President can't beat sequestration.
The sequestration means less staffing and protection by firefighters. Christopher Gerdes, a firefighter at the base, said his division will also lose overtime pay, which affects their base pay and pension rates.
All workers will be furloughed for 22 days, which means electricians like Monty Lewis won't be able to return fighter jets to the war in Afghanistan.
"We need to make a good living too," Lewis said. "We work hard for our money, I wish people would realize that. Please congress, pass a budget and stop the sequestration."
"We always have said if we continue to do this, it's going to come back and bite us in the butt. And it's butt-biting time, you know, right now. So we're going to find some pain … we're going to find some inconvenience here. We've got to get a handle on this spending, because it's not sustainable," he said.
The governor said the impact on the economy may be long term.
"It will be much worse later if we don't take care of it today," Herbert said. "The idea of spending cuts in Washington is something we ought to appreciate and applaud."
He said he was optimistic the situation could be turned around, noting that Utah faced a $1 billion loss in revenue during the Great Recession but now is counting on some $274 million in revenue growth in the upcoming budget year.
"The contrast to me is startling," Herbert said of Utah's financial situation compared with that of the federal government. "Our method is working."