Hagan: Bipartisan action needed on budget

Dec. 06, 2012 @ 07:00 AM

FOREST CITY — Congress continues to wrangle with the White House over a series of laws that will be enacted in 2013 regarding the deficit.

The "fiscal cliff" as it has been coined, refers to tax increases, spending cuts and a reduction in the county's deficit starting in 2013.

North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan said that Congress needs to act quickly, in a teleconference Wednesday morning.

"We are all aware of the across-the-board spending cuts and tax rate increases that will take place if we don't take action," Hagan said. "It has to be a bipartisan action."

If Congress and President Barack Obama do not reach a compromise by Dec. 31, the expiration of President George W. Bush's tax cuts along with significant spending cuts as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which Hagan said could lead to significant cuts to defense spending and impose tax increases across the board.

The broad budget cuts, called sequestration, could total upwards of $1.2 trillion dollars, according to Hagan.

"We are at the brink of sequestration," Hagan said. "That can have a huge impact on North Carolina because of our large defense footprint in the state."

She said that up to 34,000 defense jobs could be on the line if sequestration is implemented in 2013.

The wrangling includes Obama seeking higher taxes on families making over $250,000 per year.

Congressional Republicans, on the other hand, have proposed a increase in the eligibility age for Medicare and lowering cost-of-living hikes for Social Security benefits, according to the Associated Press. Obama's proposal kept Medicare and Social Security exempt from budget cuts.

Hagan said Wednesday that any deal needs to focus on the drivers of the economy and that Social Security was not one of those and "did not need to be discussed."

She said that a revenue increase was the biggest issue currently.

"The problem is that we have to get revenue to help solve the problem and that is the key point," Hagan said. "If we don't act by Dec. 31, those tax rates will go up and the question is having the political will to get something done in a bipartisan manner."

Obama has contended that raising taxes on the wealthy would generate the necessary revenue to handle the fiscal crisis, but Republicans have countered by saying that the president has not offered "enough specifics on reducing spending."

Hagan went so far as to say that entitlements need to be considered for cuts, but that both sides need to focus on the entire package and present guidelines for a solution.

As of Wednesday, both the President and Congressional Republicans traded barbs, but there was little negotiating as the Dec. 31 deadline approached.

Hagan was asked what kind of response her office has been getting from constituents in North Carolina.

"We have definitely been hearing from people in North Carolina," Hagan said. "People are frustrated and they know the fiscal cliff will come on Dec. 31 and, if we don't act, that taxes will increase and that is something we don't want.

"I really think that we will get something done by the end of the year. I am very frustrated because we need to get a deal done on this."