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Va. Escapes Worst Of Recession But New Fears Ahead

SHARON COHEN

LEESBURG, Va. (AP) â¿¿ Amid scenic horse farms, vineyards, Civil War landmarks and quaint shops tucked in historic red-brick buildings, signs of prosperity are plainly visible. The anxiety about the economy, less so â¿¿ but it's here.

Talk to the husband and wife who opened a used bookstore last year, and they reveal they first signed one six-month lease, then another, not wanting to lock into anything longer until they were sure they had a viable business.

Or the construction consultant who realized government budgets were shrinking and a full-fledged economic recovery was years away, so it was time to change careers.

Or the restaurant owner who wonders when the uncertainty will fade and people will start spending.

While Virginia escaped the worst of the recession â¿¿ unemployment peaked at 7.3 percent â¿¿ uneasiness about the future is in the air. For good reason: The state's fortunes are tied to the outcome of the deficit debate on Capitol Hill and its outcome could dramatically alter its economy. Unless Congress finds a way to avoid the tax increases and spending cuts that could send the nation barreling over the so-called fiscal cliff early next year, the state could face serious pain.

The cuts could impact federal workers, defense firms, the state's many military installations and beyond. Virginia is home to the Pentagon, the CIA, Naval Station Norfolk, Fort A.P. Hill, Langley Air Force Base, Marine Corps Base Quantico and more. By one account, more than 200,000 jobs could be vulnerable â¿¿ more than those lost in the recession

"This would be a punch in the face for the whole state," says James Koch, an economist at Old Dominion University. "People here have looked at other states such as Florida, Ohio and Nevada and said, 'Oh, they have it worse.' Now the worm could turn a bit."

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