Montana’s U.S. senators have been busy in their time back in session after the election and say are ready to work to resolve the budget problems and avoid the nation falling off the “fiscal cliff.”
Senior Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont, has already done work on the issue in his position as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and said he will work to make sure Montana is represented in the discussion.
“The number one thing I hear from Montanans is get it done, and that’s just what I’m working to do,” Baucus said Wednesday. “Like a lot of folks in Washington, the speaker of the house and the president are from big cities that don’t understand the rural way of life. So, my job is to make sure that Montana and other rural states like us have a seat at the table, and that means fighting for priorities like making sure taxes don’t go up on middle-class families; including the Farm Bill as part of the solution and preventing estate taxes from hitting family farms and ranches.”
Congress is facing a deadline for expiration of tax cuts passed under the administration of President George W. Bush and for sequestration, automatic cuts to programs required by the failure of Congress’ Supercommittee in 2011 to find ways to reduce the nation’s deficit. Economists have warned that a combination of tax increases and program cuts could — most say likely would — send the country back into a recession.
Aaron Murphy, spokesman for Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who just defeated U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., in Rehberg’s attempt to unseat Tester, said the senator is confident Congress can find solutions to avoid the fiscal cliff.
“Jon is optimistic that Congress can work together to find a responsible solution to avoid the cliff and also to find a long-term solution to cut the nation’s debt and deficit,” Murphy said Wednesday, adding that Tester supports extending the tax breaks for the first $200,000 of individual’s incomes and $250,000 for couples, “because he believes middle-class families are already paying enough in taxes. He also believes in closing irresponsible tax loopholes that make it easier for big corporations to ship American jobs overseas.”
Baucus already is taking steps he says will help, working with Finance Committee ranking Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah to pass from the committee in August a package of extension of some tax cuts or credits while letting others expire, which Baucus said will save about $30 billion.
Some of the extensions in the package were on the Alternative Minimum Tax, the Production Tax Credit Baucus credits with increasing the creation of wind farms in Montana, tax cuts for businesses to hire workers and keep jobs open for Guard and Reserve members, a deduction that encourages investments in small businesses, and tax cuts that allow families to deduct the cost of college tuition.
He also believes other credits or deductions should expire, providing more revenue for the nation, including depreciation of race tracks, tax credits for electric motorcycles and tax breaks for a tuna cannery in Samoa.
Baucus said some of his priorities also include continuing the reduced tax rates on the first $200,000 of income for individuals and the first $250,000 for couples, and fighting to pass the Farm Bill he helped write that the Senate passed last last June. The bill continues agriculture and food programs while trimming $23 billion from the budget.
Baucus’ spokesperson said he also is fighting to at least extend reductions on the estate tax, which he would prefer eliminating all together. A deal to extend reduced estate tax rates expires at the end of this year.
Another of his priorities in finding solutions to the fiscal cliff is working to continue support for critical access hospitals in rural areas, his spokesperson said.