The U.S. Capitol Building. (Photo: Elliot P.)
The U.S. House of Representatives late on New Year’s Day approved a Senate plan to avoid the worst effects of the “fiscal cliff,” a potentially devastating package of tax increases and spending cuts that would have struck Maryland particularly hard.
But while some taxes will not increase on Americans earning less than $450,000 a year, the bipartisan deal only delays spending cut negotiations, allowing the next Congress to deal with that issue and the ballooning national date before a late February deadline.
The former chairmen of President Barack Obama’s debt commission were dismayed by inaction on that front. Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and Democrat Erskine Bowles, Obama’s former chief of staff, said in a joint statement that the deal was a “missed opportunity.”
The men had established the bipartisan Campaign to Fix the Debt, which in Maryland included former members of the administrations of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.
“Our leaders must now have the courage to reform our tax code and entitlement programs such that we stabilize our debt and put it on a downward path as a percent of the economy … It is now more critical than ever that policymakers return to negotiations that will build on the terms of this agreement and the spending cuts,” the statement said.
“These future negotiations will need to make the far more difficult reforms that bring spending further under control, make our entitlement programs sustainable and solvent, and reform our tax code to both promote growth and produce revenue.
“We take some encouragement from the statements by the President and leaders in Congress that they recognize more work needs to be done. In order to reach an agreement, it will be absolutely necessary for both sides to move beyond their comfort zone and reach a principled agreement on a comprehensive plan which puts the debt on a clear downward path relative to the economy.”