National uncertainty could affect us

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Ballots for the November election soon will show up in mailboxes across El Paso County. Many voters will not hesitate to wade through the many choices, from contested races down to the state and local ballot issues.

At least, we hope that’s what happens.

In the past week or two, we’ve detected a new dynamic sneaking into the psyche of our electorate — and presumably throughout the nation. If this turns into a trend and perhaps a late snowball, it could have an influence on outcomes.

Especially the ones tied directly to money.

More and more, people are hearing enough to become concerned about the “fiscal cliff” of predetermined federal budget reductions, combined with expiring Bush-era tax cuts. In both cases, Congress created the circumstances by its procrastination in refusing to address the oncoming storm, instead adjourning until after the election.

It would have been easier for Congress to take care of matters this summer, but the lawmakers chose not to undertake any legislation that might have an impact — for or against either side — in this election.

But the clock has continued ticking, and the pressure has not stopped rising. Some defense contractors, realizing they can’t simply flip a switch and make the kind of cuts that sequestration would force in January, already have begun belt-tightening. It’s the same with the military, facing an across-the-board 10 percent spending reduction.

Then there are the expiring tax cuts, which must be renewed by Congress to avoid major impacts on Americans in 2013. We hear that Congress will reconvene after the election for a lame-duck session and extend the tax cuts for at least another year. Yet, when Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were here last week, Regional Business Alliance CEO Joe Raso asked them what would happen in regard to the fiscal cliff. “And all they could say was, they didn’t know,” Raso reported a few days later to 600 business and civic leaders at the Southern Colorado Economic Forum.

People are realizing that this “fiscal cliff” talk is serious. Some political ads suggest the typical U.S. household could have to pay up to $3,500 more a year in taxes. Now, those same people might flinch when they see ballot issues asking for money, whether it’s renewing the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority’s funding for road and bridge improvements, or Sheriff Terry Maketa and the county asking for a small sales-tax bump to take care of public-safety needs.

What we don’t need is for voters to knee-jerk. It’s important for everyone to make educated judgments, one way or another. Even our most powerful elected official, Mayor Steve Bach, is openly insisting that it’s essential to pass PPRTA for 10 more years of much-needed infrastructure additions and improvements. You’d assume that PPRTA, with Bach’s aggressive backing along with many civic leaders, would be a slam-dunk.

But if this “fiscal cliff” talk continues, and more anxiety comes into play, no ballot question with money involved will be safe. That goes for Colorado Springs or anywhere.