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Local politics


Legislators say real fiscal issues remain


Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said Monday the federal government’s “real” budgetary crisis is far worse than the one manufactured by Congress and the White House.

“This fiscal cliff is nothing compared to the real fiscal cliff,” Coats said in a floor speech about the prospect of expiring tax cuts and automatic spending reductions. “The real fiscal cliff is the continued excessive borrowing and spending of over a trillion dollars a year” by the government.

“It’s third-grade math. You cannot raise $2.2 trillion a year (in revenue) and spend $3.5 (trillion), $3.4 (trillion). … It’s unsustainable,” Coats said.

He said economic uncertainty prompted by the federal budget deficit and the $16.3 trillion national debt is preventing companies from expanding and hiring workers.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, said earlier Monday in an interview on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” that his constituents “see that something has to change with our spending habits. And that’s the big concern with constituents in my district, that we have to deal with spending first before we really should even be talking about tax increases.”

Neither Stutzman nor Coats voted for the Budget Control Act of 2011, which triggered tax increases and spending reductions scheduled to take effect today and together became known as the fiscal cliff.

“It was absolutely the wrong way to legislate, the wrong way to govern, pushing us toward this fiscal cliff,” said Coats, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Like other Republican senators, Coats took offense to President Obama’s public remarks in announcing that an agreement on extending certain tax cuts was “within sight” for negotiators.

Obama lamented that while he preferred a comprehensive fiscal plan, “with this Congress, that was obviously a little too much to hope for at this time.”

Obama also said that if congressional Republicans think they can slash discretionary spending without asking millionaires to pay more in taxes, “then they’ve got another thing coming. That’s not how this is going to work.”

Coats called Obama’s remarks “taunting,” “dismissive,” “insulting” and “belittling.”