Schwartz lauds pas­sage of ‘fis­cal cliff’ bill in Washington

North Penn Life - - Opinion - By Linda Finarelli

lfinarelli@mont­gom

erynews.com

Leg­is­la­tion passed by the Se­nate and House to keep the coun­try from go­ing over the so-called “fis­cal cliff” of tax hikes and ex­ten­sive spend­ing cuts was lauded by U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz Wed­nes­day as a bi­par­ti­san ef­fort to avoid “fis­cal and eco­nomic harm” and pro­vide “a fairer tax pol­icy.”

The Amer­i­can Tax­payer Re­lief Act of 2012, passed first by the Se­nate and Tues­day by the House, raises taxes for in­di­vid­u­als earn­ing more than $400,000 a year and $450,000 for cou­ples, while pro­tect­ing mid­dle class in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies from tax in­creases.

So­cial Se­cu­rity pay­roll taxes will rise 2 per­cent, back to the pre­vi­ous 6.2 per­cent on in­come up to $113,000, and un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits will be ex­tended for 2 mil­lion Amer­i­cans, un­der the bill, ac­cord­ing to news sources.

Congress failed to ad­dress the au­to­matic, across-the-board spend­ing cuts sched­uled to go into ef­fect Jan. 1 by de­lay­ing the cuts for two months, ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous news sources. The law­mak­ers now have un- til the end of Fe­bru­ary to work out a deal to avoid the $24 bil­lion in spend­ing cuts.

“We were able to pass ma­jor leg­is­la­tion in a bi­par­ti­san way, though at the 11th hour,” Schwartz said dur­ing a Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon press con­fer­ence, not­ing it “does ask the wealth­i­est 1 per­cent of Amer­i­cans to pay a bit more.”

Ac­cord­ing to Schwartz, 99 per­cent of in­di­vid­ual tax­pay­ers and 98 per­cent of busi­nesses in the coun­try will see no in­crease in their tax rate. The bill elim­i­nates the alternative min­i­mum tax on 26 mil­lion mid­dle class Amer­i­cans.

The leg­is­la­tion pro­vides “cer­tainty and sta­bil­ity” in tax rates, which she said was “very im­por­tant” to small and medium-sized busi­nesses.

“Hav­ing con­sumers know what taxes they will pay is ex­tremely im­por­tant to pre­dict con­sumer de­mand,” Schwartz said.

The thresh­old for in­creas­ing taxes — some Repub­li­cans were against any tax in­creases and some were will­ing to in­crease taxes only on those mak­ing $1 mil­lion or more — was a ma­jor ob­sta­cle, Schwartz said, and “was still very con­tro­ver­sial last night.”

But 85 Repub­li­cans in the House voted for its pas­sage, she said, and the en­tire Penn­syl­va­nia del­e­ga­tion, both Repub­li­cans and Democrats, voted for the bill.

In an­swer to a ques­tion, Schwartz ac­knowl­edged Congress did not take ad­van­tage of “an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing big­ger in tack­ling the deficit,” and said “go­ing for­ward, we have to look at tax pol­icy and pro­vi­sions and de­duc­tions that are no longer nec­es­sary” or need to be changed to re­duce the deficit.

“Bring­ing in a lit­tle more rev­enue is im­por­tant if we’re se­ri­ous about debt re­duc­tion,” she said.

And, while the sus- tain­able growth rate, a for­mula that de­ter­mines Medi­care re­im­burse­ments to physi­cians, was tem­po­rar­ily de­layed through 2013, keep­ing a 26.5 per­cent re­duc­tion in Medi­care pay­ments at bay, Schwartz said she would work for full re­peal of the SGR and “re­place it with a bet­ter pay­ment sys­tem.”

Re­peal of the SGR would be part of a broader dis­cus­sion to en­sure sol­vency of the Medi­care Trust Fund, she said.

“To sus­tain Medi­care, we have to make it as cost-ef­fec­tive as we can,” Schwartz said, part of which is to change the way physi­cians are paid.

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