Niagara Gazette

February 26, 2013

Higgins assails sequester

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Niagara Falls and Buffalo, warned Tuesday of potential "serious" consequences sequestration could have on future plans for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

In an address on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Higgins said looming cuts in the federal budget would force the delay of construction of a $6.1 million flight simulator at the airbase and require 2,300 Air Force civilians across the state to be furloughed, resulting in more than $17 million in lost wages. 

"If Congress does not repeal the sequester, the Air Force will delay the construction of a $6.1 million flight simulator at the base, a project that is crucial to securing the base’s continued operation," Higgins told his colleagues on Tuesday. 

Higgins described sequestration as the "ransom" members of the tea party "demanded when it held the American economy hostage over the debt limit." He argued that with 750,000 jobs now at stake as a result of the process, the American economy will face "real and permanent damage" if the sequester moves forward. 

"Congress created the sequester. Congress can and should repeal it," Higgins said. "For the Niagara Falls Air Reserve base and for the American economy, I urge the House to do just that."

Local and federal officials, with help from the airbase advocacy group, the Niagara Military Affairs Council, have for months been attempting to secure new missions for the facility which they feared may be targeted as part of a series of cuts in defense department spending. 

A report created last year by the Niagara County Department of Economic Development noted that the airbase employs about 2,600 people while offering an annual total economic impact on the region of about $200 million. The report argued that cuts to the airbase would "jeopardize military readiness and homeland security as well as cause catastrophic economic impacts to Western New York.”