PARKERSBURG - As the hours counted down Monday night for federal officials to address the "fiscal cliff," local officials and residents were following the situation.
News reports continued throughout Monday indicating negotiations were continuing and steps to address the fiscal cliff tax hikes appeared to be coming to a resolution before Monday's midnight deadline for the end of 2012.
As of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel's early press time for New Year's, no decision had been made by Congress.
Unless an agreement was reached and approved by Congress by the start of New Year's Day, more than $500 billion in 2013 tax increases would begin to take effect and $109 billion would be cut from defense and domestic programs. Though the tax hikes and budget cuts would be felt gradually, economists have been warning if allowed to fully take hold, their combined impact would rekindle a recession.
Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said he had been following the fiscal cliff discussions and negotiations through the local and national media, waiting to see what would happen.
While much of the discussion about the issue has involved the impact on individuals and their taxes and income, there would also be an impact felt by local governments if the situation is not addressed, he said.
"If we go into another recession, cities will be impacted again," Newell said, referring to the possible effects felt by the city of Parkersburg and other municipalities across the state and country.
Newell believes many of those in Congress and the administration are out of touch with how the fiscal cliff will affect places like Parkersburg, which are responsible at a much closer level for many basic needs, from water and sewer service to police and fire protection to waste removal.
The revenues that provide for many of the basic services could be impacted by the fiscal cliff debate and any actions - or inactions - that might result from the discussions and negotiations, according to Newell.
"It's just a real question mark," Wood County Commission President Blair Couch said of the fiscal cliff situation.
He believes Wood County is in a positive fiscal spot at this time, but people are keeping an eye on the situation and wondering what impact it might have on them, personally and professionally.
Looking at the situation from the county government's standpoint, Couch said he knows there is the potential it could affect ongoing grants, which help with a variety of local programs and local government.
"There is a fear that the budget sequestration would have an effect on those," he said.
There are also concerns about what effects the fiscal cliff might have on county employees' paychecks and the county's payroll, although it will be mid-January before the first paychecks of the new year are issued. That will give county officials a chance to make what changes are necessary, if they turn out to be necessary, he said.
On Sunday, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was among those attempting to find a resolution to the issue by introducing the "Cliff Alleviation at the Last Minute," or C.A.L.M. Act.
"If we're determined to go over the cliff, we've got to do something to soften the landing, because at the bottom of the fiscal cliff are immediate and massive tax increases, deep and indiscriminate spending cuts, and the risk of another recession," Manchin said in a floor speech to introduce the legislation.
"So as we come down to the final hours, we have two choices - to do nothing and cause an unbelievable amount of hardship for our fellow Americans or to do something to reduce the suffering inflicted on our citizens by an inflexible political system. I choose to do something."
Manchin's measure would phase in the tax hikes over the next three years, instead of allowing all of them to hit immediately. The bill would also allow the federal Office of Management and Budget to prioritize which programs would be cut, rather than apply an across-the-board cut. The measure would also encourage Congress and the president to reach the "big fix" that economists have called for to put the nation's fiscal house back in order.
A spokesman in Manchin's office said no action had been taken on the C.A.L.M. Act proposal as of Monday afternoon, as congressional officials continued discussions and negotiations throughout the day.