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Averting the looming fiscal cliff

Guest Commentary

 


In the last few weeks, Congress has been focused on keeping taxes from increasing and putting the U.S. government on a sustainable path toward growth and prosperity.

Over long days and late nights, including New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, we worked on plans to avert the “fiscal cliff” – automatic tax increases (more than $3,000 for the average family in Eastern Washington) and spending cuts – that economists predicted would push the country back into recession and higher unemployment.

The good news is that we didn’t go over the cliff – we passed tax cuts for 98 percent of taxpayers – the largest permanent tax cut in American history. I voted for this legislation that made the Bush-era tax cuts permanent, including lower rates for inheritance, investment and income for anyone earning under $400,000 per year.

While we’ve kept tax rates low for as many hardworking Americans as possible, I was also frustrated that we did not make significant progress to curb spending. The agreement Congress passed was not a long-term solution, and it did not accomplish everything that Eastern Washington needs. But we did make some significant progress.

The plan I supported makes income tax rates permanent for 98 percent of taxpayers. It permanently holds down the death tax at 40 percent, with a $5 million exemption per person, which protects thousands of Eastern Washington’s family farms and businesses.  It also provides a one-year extension of the Farm Bill, which prevents a doubling of milk prices and brings more certainty to Eastern Washington’s farmers at a time they need it most. It extends tax relief for underwater homeowners and allows residents to deduct their sales tax, and will ensure Medicare patients can keep seeing their doctors. It makes important provisions permanent for Eastern Washington families like the marriage penalty relief and the child deduction tax credit.

Now that tax relief has been extended, it’s time for the President to work with Congress to get our nation’s fiscal house in order by addressing the underlying problem, which is spending. The national debt is currently $16 trillion and climbing – which makes each American’s share of the debt over $50,000. This is unacceptable and unsustainable. We must cut spending and grow the economy to avoid passing on an even bigger debt burden to our children and grandchildren. 

The most urgent action we must take is to tackle the debt that threatens our nation’s future. This compromise is a first step, and we must take a bigger second step that puts an end to out-of-control federal spending. And we will.

The compromise legislation we adopted has a built-in deadline for spending cuts. In two months, $1 trillion in automatic across-the-board cuts called “sequestration,” begin.  Few Members of Congress want to see these 2013 cuts done in a haphazard manner – cutting $55 billion from defense and $55 billion from other spending immediately.

There will also be votes in the next few months to continue funding the government and to increase the debt ceiling, which should provide other opportunities to press the administration for a responsible spending plan. 

As we look forward to the 113th Congress, my number-one priority is to protect and stand up for you, the great people of Eastern Washington. I am humbled that you’ve elected me to serve you, and I am honored every day to represent you.

 

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