Mayors from Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and other cities visited Washington, D.C. to talk with lawmakers about the effects of “sequestration” on cities. “Too often,” says Mayor Rybak of Minneapolis, “a line-item cut in Washington one year will lead to an expense in a city the years after.”

Scott Smith, the Republican mayor of Mesa, Ariz., is worried how to keep municipal bonds tax-exempt. If that is eliminated, he says, it will raise the city’s borrowing costs for investments and curtail its ability to carry out crucial projects. “It not only hurts quality of service, but also is a job killer,” Smith says.

The across-the-board cuts mandated by the sequestration agreement pose a challenge for mayors and locals, who are forced to prioritize essential services. “What the federal government seems to be saying is, Everyone needs to get a haircut, without any sense of what the national priorities are, or any sense of whether you can treat these investments as equal, either in their impact in the short term or in the long term,” says Bruce Katz, the director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

Read: As Fiscal Cliff Approaches, U.S. Mayors Warn of the Toll on Cities |