News Column

Ohio's Senators Lay Out Their Vision for Avoiding the Fiscal Cliff

Nov 16, 2012

Bob Blake

As the nation creeps perilously close to the so-called fiscal cliff, both of the state's U.S. senators say they're willing to tackle the issue through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

Though U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, agree something must be done, neither has mapped out exactly how a compromise can be reached to avert the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that will be triggered Jan. 1 without a new agreement in Washington, D.C.

"Our top priority has to be finding common ground to avoid the fiscal cliff, and I think as important to establish the framework to deal with the underlying budget problems that we face. I actually view it as an opportunity for us to face some of the issues that Congress must address including entitlement reform and tax reform. If we fail to address those issues then we'll have another fiscal cliff coming up very, very shortly."

Portman said he was weary of another debt ceiling crisis and the resulting negative impact on the economy, especially as Europe's economy is now officially in a recession.

"This is not a time for us to be sitting back and allowing something like the fiscal cliff to happen," he said. "It is a time for us to address not just the fiscal cliff but also the underlying issues that we must address to move the economy forward."

Brown said the economy needs a boost from more revenue.

"We start with revenues. We need to make balanced cuts," Brown said. "I think nobody will object if the cuts are balanced and we do significant revenues and we have a jobs component. You can't only tax your way or cut your way into a balanced budget. You need to grow your way there, too. We need to look at all three."

Brown said he doesn't yet know specifically what a balanced cuts proposal would look like.

"I don't know yet. I want to see what people propose," Brown said. "You start with, because we've had hundreds of billions in cuts, you start with revenues. Let's talk about how much more we need to cut. As we see economic growth pick up you don't need to cut as much. You don't need to tax as much if economic growth picks up."

One area Brown said can't be touched in reaching an agreement is Social Security.

"Touching Social Security, raising the retirement age of Social Security is absolutely non-negotiable to me. Although it should not be part of the package because Social Security is not part of the budget problem," Brown said. "It's not just bad policy, it borders on immoral to force people that are working in plants or working construction or working retail or waiting tables to work until they're 70 years old before they can get a pension they paid into their entire work lives. I think that's immoral."

Portman said the bottom line is entitlement reform and spending cuts must be part of the solution.

"In the context of real entitlement reform which must happen in order for these programs to be sustainable and in the context of pro-growth tax reform that actually creates more jobs and more economic growth, I think there could be additional revenues," Portman said. " I think it could come from folks who are at the upper end of the income scale. If it's done on top of our current antiquated, inefficient tax code and if there's no spending reductions as part of it which is being proposed by some on the Democratic side, I think the issue's a mistake. I couldn't support that and nor could by the way a lot of Democrats."

Source: (c)2012 The Lima News (Lima, Ohio). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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