Leaders vote no on fiscal bill

Published 12:01 am Thursday, January 3, 2013

All but two of Alabama’s Congressmembers voted against the bill to avert the fiscal cliff.

Sen. Jeff Sessions and Alabama’s lone Democrat representative Terri Sewell of the state’s Seventh Congress-ional District voted in favor of the measure.

Sessions issued a statement this week saying the legislation will help end a period of uncertainty that may impact the country’s opportunities for economic growth.

“This legislation is necessary to prevent a large and painful tax increase from falling on the vast majority of Americans,” he said. “Now, it is important that we place our focus directly on the real cause of our nation’s looming debt crisis: the continued surge in spending.”

The Senate approved the measure 89-9 and the House 257-167.

As part of the bill, couples making more than $450,000 and individuals making more than $400,000 will see their taxes increase. These individuals will see their taxes increase from 35 percent to the Clinton-era rate of 39.6 percent.

Still, those making under those thresholds will maintain tax cuts already implemented.

The bill also extends unemployment insurance and delays a series of cuts in federal spending for two months.

Sen. Richard Shelby voiced his opinion against the measure, citing the need to cut back on spending.

“I do not support this agreement,” he said. “Our economy needs spending restraint that eliminates corporate welfare and lowers individuals’ rates. Instead, this package raised taxes, increases spending, and will lead to more borrowing. This deal is certainly no cure-all; rather, it falls far short of the measures necessary to promote job creation, economic growth and fiscal stability.”

Rep. Martha Roby of the Second Congressional District defended her no-vote in a statement.

“Tuesday night, I voted against the Senate/Biden tax deal,” she said. “Here’s why: for months, I have been hopeful Congress could agree on a reasonable plan to reduce the deficit and finally begin to address our national debt. I have repeatedly stressed that a truly balanced plan must include cuts to mandatory government spending.

“Unfortunately the deal forged by the Senate and the vice president does not contain real spending cuts, and I cannot support it,” she said. “Washington doesn’t have a taxing problem; it has a spending problem. We have $16 trillion in debt. We spend more than a trillion dollars more than we take in every year. It’s past time we get serious about this country’s spending problem and restore fiscal sanity to the budget.”

Among the highlights of the bill:

• Itemized deductions will be capped at $250,000 for individuals and $300,000 for couples;

• Taxes on inherited estates will increase from 35 percent to 40 percent;

• Child care, tuition and research and development tax credits will be renewed;

• Reimbursements for physicians who take Medicare patients will continue, but it won’t be paid for out of Obamacare;

• Unemployment insurance will be extended for 2 million people for the next year; and,

• The alternative minimum tax will be permanently adjusted for inflation.

Americans are likely to still see their paychecks decrease due to an increase in payroll taxes.

In 2011, the government temporarily lowered the payroll tax rate from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, a measure that has cost $120 billion each year.