The looming sequester and the possibility of a failure by Congress to strike a deal before the fast approaching March 1 deadline could have far-ranging effects on Massachusetts as well as the communities surrounding Hanscom Air Force Base, according to state legislators.
Without action from Congress, the sequester would go into effect automatically on March 1, reducing spending by the state in a number of areas, including education, the environment, health, military and law enforcement, according to the White House.
State Representative and Bedford resident Ken Gordon said he believes the impact of the sequester on local communities would be felt almost immediately, especially due to the role that Hanscom Air Force Base plays in the local economy.
"It would affect us on day one," Gordon said. "Think of how it affects Hanscom and how that in turn affects the local economy in town."
Gordon said he would expect the spending cuts resulting from the sequester to affect civilian contractor positions as well as airport jobs at Hanscom.
"I think it would be impossible for the sequester not to impact contracting jobs at Hanscom," Gordon said. "It's big, big stakes and as we've seen before it's a game of chicken being played on the national level."
Of the 5,828 jobs at Hanscom, 2,200 belong to contractors, according to the Hanscom Air Force Base website, which reported contract expenditures at $5.6 billion in fiscal 2011, the last year reported.
State Sen. Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, said several state agencies, including the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind would both be impacted by the sequester.
Barrett said the MRC, which provides a broad array of services including processing applications for Supplemental Security Income, could see a 5.8 percent decrease in federal funding if Congress does not act to avoid the sequester.
"The MRC staff tell me they're going to have to make adjustments fairly quickly if we reach the sequester," Barrett said. "Right now there's a three month waiting period for employment services with the MRC, and this will get longer with the sequester."
The MRB, which provides rehabilitation and socials services to the blind, would see approximately a 6 percent cut in federal funding if Congress fails to act before the March 1 deadline, according to Barrett.
"It's becoming very real to me as well as to other members of the Senate," Barrett said.
Seniors and veterans would also be among those feeling the impact of the sequester, according to Gordon.
"The social safety net programs for seniors and veterans are dependent on federal funding as well as state funding," Gordon said. "Senior centers and veteran centers are federally funded to an extent."
Gordon said he does not want local communities to suffer because of the failure of politicians in Washington to come to a compromise.
"I'm hopeful that we'll work it out because we've reached this cliff before. The Congress is playing this game and I don't want Bedford, Burlington, Wilmington and Massachusetts to be the losers," Gordon said, referring to the towns he represents.