A day after the U.S. House approved a bill to keep the country from sliding over the fiscal cliff, many local business leaders were left feeling like it wasn't enough.

"One part of the equation has been resolved, but how to resolve the country's huge budget deficit was barely touched. My hope was Congress would address both aspects of the problem," said Bob Jensenius, executive vice president of the York County Chamber of Commerce.

The plan passed by Congress upheld Bush-era tax cuts for individuals earning less than $400,000 per year and couples earning less than $450,000 per year.

While the bill also extended unemployment insurance, it didn't do much good for those keeping an eye on government spending.

"We were hoping the whole thing would be resolved so businesses have a totally clear picture of what 2013 would look like," Jensenius said. "It's partially clear for some, but still opaque for others."

The House approval delayed until late February $110 billion worth of automatic spending cuts to domestic agencies and programs, and the Department of Defense budget, but it didn't salve uncertainty.

"Congress solved nothing," All they did was delay clarity" said Mike Smeltzer, executive director of the Manufacturers' Association of South Central Pennsylvania.

Military spending: For defense contractors like BAE Systems in West Manchester Township, and the local suppliers it uses, the New Year's Day vote fell short of addressing what will happen with military spending.

"We can't plan day to day. We try to look out three, six, nine months or a year in advance. Manufacturing is a long cycle. If you're making Army vehicles, pretzels or motorcycles, you can't have uncertainty hanging over your head for a year," Smeltzer said.

York County manufacturers are starting the year much the same way they spent most of 2012 - in a perpetual state of not knowing what to expect, he said.

"People want to know why we aren't hiring or investing in new equipment; this is why. It's because of uncertainty, and it's very frustrating," Smeltzer said.

Smeltzer will be visiting with his member companies this week, telling them to engage politically.

He's advising constituents to reach out to the new U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, who is replacing Rep. Todd Platts, R-Springettsbury Township, following Platts' retirement after 12 years of service.

"I'm telling them to reach out to (Perry) and let him know of their concerns and the impact government decisions have on their companies," Smeltzer said.

Leadership needed: After Perry and other elected legislators are sworn into office Thursday, it will be an opportunity for new federal lawmakers to demonstrate leadership, said Darrell Auterson, CEO of the York County Economic Alliance.

Auterson said he, too, was disappointed that the fiscal cliff deal left behind so much uncertainty, but he has higher hopes for recently elected leaders.

"The new Congress that takes office Thursday will be faced with huge challenges, but challenges present opportunity," he said.

Auterson said he hopes new federal lawmakers will roll up their sleeves and get down to work.

"I'm not sure how much longer we can kick the can down the road. We've put it off too long, and it's time to deal with the important issues," he said.

The constantly-growing $16 trillion U.S. deficit continues to weigh heavily on York County business leaders and residents, Auterson said.

"We certainly can't put that burden on the shoulders of our grandchildren and their grandchildren. It's time to make tough choices," he said.

Ultimately, those tough choices will help the county and country start in a new, positive direction, Auterson said.

"I think it will be a fascinating year and hopefully a more productive year," he said.

- Candy Woodall can also be reached at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.