Chicopee mayor faces unique challenges with fiscal cliff - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Chicopee mayor faces unique challenges with fiscal cliff

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Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have less than a month until the nation goes over the fiscal cliff.

If no resolution is reached the consequences would mean severe cuts for the Bay state forcing the state to close a $540 million budget gap.

"I am scared to death of the automatic cutbacks in defense," said Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette.

Like other local mayors, Bissonnette faces a tough road ahead if the fiscal cliff cannot be resolved by Dec. 31.

But unlike other local mayors, his city houses one of the top air reserve bases in the country - Westover.

"That brings in almost $250 million a year in economic impact to the Pioneer Valley with all the jobs and goods and services and purchases that go with that," Bissonnette said.

If the automatic defense cuts go through, consequences would be severe for the base.

"If they were to sustain an 8 percent cutback up there that could mean an awful lot of jobs, a lot of income and a lot of revenue for the Pioneer Valley," Bissonnette said.

Along with an 8 percent cut in military spending, the city would face a $225,000 cut from the state from their program to transport homeless children on their bus system.

They also face a $100,000 cut in local aid by Gov. Deval Patrick.

"There's a lot on the table and there's a lot at stake and it needs to get done sooner rather than later," Bissonnette said.

State Secretary of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez told the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield Wednesday that the effects would be severe for all of Massachusetts.

"We could lose about $200 million of federal funds that comes through state government for things like special education, heating assistance for low-income households, childcare subsidies," Gonzalez said.  

But the mayor says he's not ready to start panicking, yet.

"The sky is starting to get dark and they only have a couple weeks left to work this out so I'm hoping we'll get a resolution soon," Bissonnette said.

Bissonnette has a conference call with Vice President Joe Biden Thursday morning following a meeting with him several weeks ago regarding how local cities will be affected by this.

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