York's representative in the U.S. House is willing to compromise on a deal to hit the brakes before the economy flies off the so-called "fiscal cliff," but Rep. Todd Platts, R-York County, said he's uncertain his colleagues will follow suit.
The retiring Platts, whose last day in the House is Jan. 2, said any budget motion that passes during the lame-duck session will need the kind of bipartisan cooperation that's been in short supply in Washington, D.C., during the 112th Congress.
There's been an "extremely frustrating" atmosphere of gridlock because of partisan differences and, during this session where major issues loom, elected officials have failed to govern, he said.
A cliff? Partisan fighting over fiscal issues started after Republicans gained control of the House during the 2010 midterm elections.
Unable to agree on a long-term solution, President Barack Obama and legislators passed last-minute budget deals that only staved off immediate issues, essentially "kicking the can down the road" until after the 2012 elections.
On Dec. 31, the Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire at the same time as stimulus breaks such as the payroll-tax holiday. Those expirations coincide with the implementation of sequestration, billions in federal spending cuts agreed to last year during talks to raise the debt ceiling.
Economic experts have said that pulling all of that money from a recovering economy could be enough of a loss to push it back into recession.
Democrats want to keep the Bush tax cuts for everyone except those who make more than $250,000 a year; Republicans don't want them to expire for anyone.
The pledge: In addition to the differing partisan philosophies on taxation of higher wage earners, some Republi-
cans signed an agreement saying they won't raise taxes.
Platts didn't sign lobbyist and conservative activist Grover Norquist's pledge, and he said he disagrees with the concept.
Imagine, he said, if lawmakers had signed such a pledge in the 1940s and weren't able to raise taxes "to fund World War II and defeat evil."
"We need to reduce spending, but that alone is not enough," he said. "Everything has to be on the table as part of the negotiations."
And that includes tax increases.
Platts said he's more likely to support a budget that increases taxes for those making more than $1 million per year because he believes the $600,000 to $1 million range includes a lot of small businesses that would be hurt by an increase.
He also supports bipartisan efforts to change the tax code, generating money by closing special-interest tax loopholes, he said.
While the best way to reduce spending would be to "get the economy going on all four cylinders," Platts said some program changes might be necessary.
The government is spending about $1 trillion more per year than it was four years ago, though the U.S. is withdrawing from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
And while Platts has only about six weeks left and is set to start packing his office, he said he hopes the next several weeks are busy. That would be an indication that lawmakers are actually accomplishing something, he said.
"My hope is to find a long-term solution (to the fiscal cliff issue and budgeting), instead of a short-term one," he said. "We need to find the middle ground, not punt it to the next session."
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.