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Georgia lawmakers split over fiscal cliff
Worst-case averted but cuts are still possible
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Both chambers of Congress pulled out a deal last week that prevents America from going over the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts that experts say would have chilled the economy and prompted an extended recession — but there’s still much work ahead.
Georgia delegates in the House and Senate will have a short time to agree on federal expenditures before another crunch.
The Associated Press reports that the treasury is expected to need an expansion in borrowing authority by early spring, and funding authority for most government programs is set to expire in late March — leaving the door open to still more wrangling.
The Senate passed H.R.8, or the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, during Tuesday’s early morning hours with an 89-8 vote. Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson voted in support of the measure.
Chambliss in 2012 visited several military installations throughout the state and warned that automatic spending cuts known as sequestration would harm recovering economies in regions like Coastal Georgia. Last week, he issued a statement on his vote.
“This deal is far from what this country needs, but I cannot, in good conscience, allow taxes to be raised on all Americans and send our economy into turmoil,” Chambliss said. “While I am pleased that most Americans have been saved from an increase in taxes, I won’t be satisfied that the Senate has finished its work on the fiscal cliff until significant spending cuts on discretionary and entitlement spending have occurred.”
Chambliss said he looks forward to negotiating “substantial, meaningful” spending cuts, but he did not address the uncertainty that still faces military installations.
Isakson issued a similar sentiment, defending certain provisions of the bill but adding that there still is work ahead.
The House passed its version of the legislation late Tuesday night with a bipartisan 257-167 vote. But Georgia’s Republican representatives broke ranks with Senate Republicans and opposed the bill.
U.S. Rep Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, voted no. He’s appeared on several TV news spots in recent weeks discussing the economic fiasco.
During an interview with MSNBC, Kingston predicted that a Senate measure would galvanize enough support in the House to pass even if a majority of Republicans did not support it.
“I think most people are — at least 30 to 50 — will say, ‘Well, you know what, let’s take what we can get and live to fight another day.’ Therefore, you’ll get a bill passed,” Kingston said.
Kingston’s office also issued a statement opposing the measure.
“Delaying the spending cuts — the ones already on in August 2011 — is especially worrisome. Does anyone really believe attitudes toward less spending will be any different in March than they are today? The fiscal-cliff deadline was created in August 2011, and nothing happened in the Senate until last week. If we did not get religion in 16 months, I doubt we’ll get it in two,” Kingston said.
Augusta Democrat John Barrow also voted no.
Georgia Democratic Party Chairman Mike Berlon said the state party is commenting with caution on the legislation until the text has been read and analyzed.
“From our perspective, it was great that we were able to reach an agreement at least at this point because it stops all the taxes from going up … this is really just one step in a bigger effort to strengthen the economy,” he said.

Read more in the Jan. 9 edition of the News.

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