Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wisconsin budget

Southern Wisconsin’s families continue to work hard to make ends meet in an uncertain economy. The unemployment rate in Wisconsin as of February 2013 is high at 7.2 percent, while the national unemployment rate is 7.6 percent. As the economy struggles, much focus has been on increasing taxes to address our deficit and our debt. These tax increases would hit job creators, like those small manufacturers located in industrial parks in our communities, and hard-working families. Our local manufacturers and families are already forced to live under the strains of the current difficult economy. Asking them to pay more will hurt our local communities. What the federal government needs to do is stop spending too much. It simply can no longer afford to spend money that it doesn’t have and take out more loans to pay for that spending. Preventing tax increases on 98 percent of taxpayers On January 2, 2013, taxpayers faced tax increases and automatic across-the-board spending cuts that were schedule to take effect as a result of last summer’s debate about raising our nation’s debt ceiling. These spending cuts, known as sequestration, would have resulted in a 10 percent reduction in Department of Defense programs and an 8 percent reduction in certain domestic federal government programs. These tax increases and automatic cuts in federal spending were referred to as the “fiscal cliff.” According to the Congressional Budget Office, going over the fiscal cliff would have substantially reduced the deficit; however, this restrain would have also reduced our nation's economic growth from 4.4 percent to negative 0.5 percent in 2013, putting us at risk of another recession. Fortunately, there was bipartisan consensus that action needed to be taken. Recognizing the importance of acting to prevent the expiration of current tax rates, the House passed H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, by a bipartisan vote of 257 to 167—with my support—on January 1, 2013. H.R. 8 prevented a tax rate increase on 98 percent of taxpayers and made these lower tax rates permanent so they would not expire again. H.R. 8 also makes permanent 97 percent of the tax relief provisions for small businesses enacted in 2001 and 2003. Without Congressional action to address this issue, the American people would have been hit with a $4.4 trillion tax increase; instead revenues will increase by $600 billion. In the end, the choice presented to Member of Congress was to either raise taxes by $4.4 trillion or by $600 billion—I voted for the latter. This bill also delays the Fiscal Year 2013 sequestration for two months, giving Congress the opportunity to focus the nation’s attention on the fact that we are spending more money than we have. While not perfect, I supported H.R. 8 because this legislation prevents tax increases on 98 percent of taxpayers, or 114 million households, and delays the automatic across-the-board cuts to our armed forces and key priorities. The House had already passed legislation to prevent tax increases for every American family, and it is unfortunate that President Obama insisted on taking more from hardworking taxpayers. In addition, the House also passed legislation to replace the sequester with reasonable spending reductions, such as stopping fraud by eliminating government slush funds, putting an end to bailouts, and reducing waste and duplicative programs. Regrettably, the Senate failed to take action on this alternative to sequestration. Despite my concerns with other provisions in the bill, I commend my colleagues for limiting the damage as much as possible. At a time when families and small businesses are facing high gas prices and overall increases in the cost of living, the last thing taxpayers need right now or in the future is a tax increase. Now, we must return our attention to the real problem: Washington’s out-of-control spending. This reckless spending drives the debt. And this debt is hurting the economy today. Unless the President gets serious about tackling spending, Americans will face a debt crisis—one that will threaten our most vulnerable in particular. I am hopeful the President will come around and agree to meaningful spending cuts and reforms which are critical if we are going to avert the debt crisis and get the economy growing. I have introduced several budgets that would get government spending under control and will continue putting forth my detailed solution in the upcoming budget this year. The Debt Ceiling and Sequestration On December 26, 2012, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sent a letter to congressional leaders warning that the national debt would reach its limit of $16.394 trillion on December 31, 2012. Accordingly, the federal debt did reach this limit on December 31, and the Treasury has since implemented “extraordinary measures” to meet federal payments for the immediate future. On January 14, 2013, Secretary Geithner sent an additional letter to House Speaker John Boehner, stating that the Treasury currently expects these extraordinary measures to exhaust as soon as mid-February, and urging further action from Congress and the President to ensure that the U.S. does not default on its financial obligations. Our debt is the product of massive spending increases that occurred under many Presidents and many Congresses over many years, but that does not mean we should or can continue on this unsustainable course. To tackle these fiscal challenges, we need real leadership, meaning a commitment to pay off the debt and balance the budget, and real solutions, rather than empty promises and speeches. The most important issue in this debate is not whether we should raise the debt limit, but instead how we can address our out of control government spending and start reducing our annual deficits and overall national debt. In the coming months, Congress will debate the best ways to address the debt ceiling and avoid across-the-board sequester cuts, which will now go into effect on March 1, 2013, unless action is taken to replace them. In this debate, we must return our attention to the real problem: out-of-control spending. Washington’s reckless spending drives the debt and this debt is hurting the economy today. We’ll never get our debt under control unless we tackle its main drivers: spending money we don’t have. Unless we get at the heart of the problem, Americans will face a debt crisis – one that will threaten our most vulnerable in particular – and it is our responsibility to prevent such a crisis. I remain hopeful that leaders can rise to meet our generation's greatest challenge with specific solutions and responsible budgets. I will keep advancing solutions that deal directly with the drivers of the debt, help get our economy back on track, and ensure future generations a shot at the American Dream. The President’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 At a time when strong leadership is needed in the White House, last year, President Obama proposed budget that, in the words of The Washington Post, "falls short." Failing to heed the warnings of economists and the concerns of our fellow Americans, the President's budget accelerates our country down the path to bankruptcy. The House voted on President Obama's budget proposal for FY2013, and unanimously rejected it by a vote of 0 – 414, a clear indication that Republicans and Democrats alike did not believe the President put forth a credible plan to address America's challenges. No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013 Looking ahead to the President’s budget proposal for FY 2014, on January 14, 2013, the White House announced that it will not meet the statutory deadline of submitting its budget proposal to Congress by February 4. The President has only met this deadline once since taking office. This, combined with the Senate’s refusal to comply with the statutory requirement to pass a budget for nearly 4 years, is a true failure of leadership. To bring these failures to an end, the House passed H.R. 325, the No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013 by a vote of 285 to 144. This legislation allows the Treasury to borrow to only pay its bills coming due until May 18, 2013. At the end of that period of time, the debt limit would be increased by the amount that was borrowed to pay the government’s bills until May 18, 2013. It also requires both houses of Congress to pass a budget as stipulated by federal law. Under this bill, if either the House or Senate fail to pass a budget, its members’ pay will be withheld. H.R. 325 is currently pending in the Senate. I voted in favor of this bill because every family sets a budget to pay its bills. Congress should do the same. The House will comply with the budget law and we will not consider another debt-ceiling increase unless the Senate passes a budget. The House will not just keep raising the debt ceiling either. We need to take this opportunity to make a down payment on our debt reduction and point our country in the right direction. Path to Prosperity House Republicans have pledged to lead where the President has failed. The budget advanced by the House of Representatives on March 29, 2012 helps spur job creation today, stops spending money the government does not have, and lifts the crushing burden of debt. The Path to Prosperity cuts more than $5 trillion in spending from the President's budget over the next 10 years, putting the budget on the path to balance and the economy on the path to prosperity. Specifically, the budget: Restores Economic Freedom – The Path to Prosperity fosters a better environment for private-sector job creation by lifting the debt-fueled uncertainty and advancing pro-growth tax reforms. Changes Washington’s Culture of Spending – The budget stops Washington from spending money it does not have on government programs that do not work. It locks in spending cuts with enforceable spending controls. Strengthens Health and Retirement Security – The budget puts an end to empty promises from Washington, offering instead real security through real reforms. The framework established in this budget ensures no disruptions to existing health and retirement benefit programs for those beneficiaries who have organized their retirements around them, while at the same time building stronger programs that future beneficiaries can count on when they retire. Provides for the Common Defense – With American men and women in uniform currently engaged with a fierce enemy and dealing with emerging threats around the world, this budget takes several steps to ensure that national security remains the Federal government’s top priority, including the rejection of proposals to make thoughtless, across-the-board cuts in funding for national defense. Lifts the Crushing Burden of Debt – The budget tackles the existential threat posed by rapidly growing government and debt, applying the nation’s timeless principles to this generation’s greatest challenge. It ensures that the next generation inherits a stronger, more prosperous America. It is unconscionable to leave the next generation with a crushing burden of debt and a nation in decline. The choice of two futures presented in the House-passed FY2013 budget is premised on the wisdom of the American people to build a prosperous future for themselves and for future Americans to come. Today, America is struggling — these are tough times and people are rightfully anxious about the future. But as the challenge grows, so does the opportunity to restore America's promise and prosperity. This budget recommits the federal government to the security of every American citizen's natural right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, while fostering an environment for economic growth and private-sector job creation. This year, I will put forward a budget that meets the statutory deadlines and carries out these priorities.

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