By Keith Gushard
Though called “far from perfect” by each, the two Congressmen who represent Crawford County, as well as both of Pennsylvania’s U.S. senators, all voted for the new tax package passed in Washington this week to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”
Republican Congressman Mike Kelly, whose Third District covers almost all of Crawford County, and Republican Congressman Glenn Thompson, whose Fifth District covers the Titusville area, both voted for the “Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act of 2012” that was passed 257-167 in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The Senate earlier had approved the bill 89-8 with, Pennsylvania’s two senators — Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey — both voting for it before the measure was sent over to the House for action.
The bill had centered around what to do with a huge package of tax cuts first enacted under President George W. Bush. Those cuts were set to expire Tuesday as part of the nation’s “fiscal cliff.” Those Bush-era tax cuts lowered taxes for families at every income level, reduced investment taxes and the estate tax, and enhanced a number of tax credits, including a $1,000-per-child credit.
The package passed Tuesday by the Senate and House extends most the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making less than $400,000 a year and married couples making less than $450,000 annually.
But, Social Security payroll taxes will rise this year as the deal let a temporary reduction in the Social Security payroll tax expire, reducing a worker’s take-home pay. In 2012, that 2-percentage-point cut in the Social Security payroll tax was worth about $1,000 to a worker making $50,000 a year.
The federal lawmakers who represent Crawford County all said they weren’t totally happy with the end result, but the bill provides financial stability for the country.
“I voted to make permanent tax rates that conservatives crafted years ago for more than 99.3 percent of Americans, including a permanent patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), and to keep many good items in the tax code like the child tax credit,” Kelly said in a statement on his support of the agreement. “We are finally providing some certainty to the economy with regards to taxes which is why, in the end, I voted affirmatively for the agreement.
“Our attention must immediately turn to doing the real spending and tax reform that needs to be done to restore the fiscal health of this country,” Kelly said.
“Without passage of this agreement, each and every one of my constituents would have received a tax increase,” Thompson said in a statement. “While far from perfect, the proposal protects 99 percent of taxpayers from scheduled rate increases and provides the certainty necessary for families to plan and businesses to grow by making this tax relief permanent.”
Like Kelly, Thompson pointed out there’s more work to do, but called out the Senate and President Obama for action.
“Over the last two years, the House has taken action to fully avert the fiscal cliff and also put forward serious proposals to reduce our national debt, only to see these measures languish in the Senate,” Thompson said. “While H.R. 8 avoids the fiscal cliff, the time has come for the Senate and the president to join the House in working to address our growing debt crisis.”
Sen. Casey agreed more work as to be done.
“Moving forward, Republicans and Democrats need to come together to reduce the deficit in smart and responsible ways that protect working families and continue to create jobs,” Casey, chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, said in a statement. “While this deal is far from perfect, the Senate took the appropriate steps to protect the middle class and keep in place common-sense measures — like the earned income tax credit and unemployment insurance — that will help keep the economy on track.”
Toomey said one of his top priorities has been to pursue policies that maximize economic growth and job creation through lower taxes.
“We made this tax relief permanent, thereby establishing the predictability necessary to promote economic growth and job creation,” Toomey said in a statement. “Neither side got everything it wanted in this deal. I had to accept provisions I did not like — my preference would have been to avoid higher taxes for all Americans. But I believe this legislation is the best we could do for taxpayers and job seekers in Pennsylvania.”
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.