Utah legislators hoping for progress before fiscal cliff

2012-12-16T00:35:00Z 2013-02-15T07:51:40Z Utah legislators hoping for progress before fiscal cliffBilly Hesterman - Daily Herald Daily Herald
December 16, 2012 12:35 am  • 

If you're wondering what might happen with the fiscal cliff situation in Washington, D.C., you're not alone.

Utah's congressional delegation is also wondering what deal Congress and the president can come to terms on before the end of the year comes and the nation goes off the cliff triggering an increase in taxes and massive cuts to government services.

Utah's team, made up of four Republicans and one Democrat, has some ideas on what they'd like to see happen, but the negotiations appear to only be going on between two people -- President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner.

"It really is negotiations between those two people," Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, said. "There is not a lot of information coming out because they are keeping negotiations rather quiet."

Boehner, R-Ohio, met with Obama on Thursday afternoon but few details of their discussion were released, leaving Utah's federal lawmakers wondering what they should be prepared for.

"Recent discussions have not produced an agreement," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said. "Speaker Boehner submitted a proposal to the White House but it appears that was something the president was not even willing to use as a starting point for negotiations. He wasn't willing to even make a counteroffer."

There are ideas that the group seems to support on the whole. Utah's elected officials are on board with extending all of the Bush-era tax cuts at this time as all said economists have stated not extending those cuts will put the country back into a recession. They also all would like to see legislation that would put deadlines on Congress to overhaul the nation's tax code.

"I would be disappointed in an extension that had no plan for a change in the long-term issues that we really need to address to tackle the fiscal situation of this country," Matheson said.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he has no idea what the final plan may look like, but he does feel that compromise should come from both sides. While some Democrats and the president appear set on raising taxes on the wealthiest in America, Chaffetz said he wants a plan that does not raise taxes on anyone.

"I recognize that the president was re-elected but so was I," Chaffetz stated. "My job is not to rubber stamp whatever the president wants."

Chaffetz did say he could vote in favor of a plan that isn't perfect but reiterated he wants a plan that has some victories for Republicans.

"I want to find some common ground and do what we can," he said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has a bill waiting to be considered that would extend the current tax policy until the end of 2013. That bill was introduced in July and has been assigned to the Senate finance committee, of which Hatch is the ranking minority member. The proposal appears to be on hold while negotiations take place.

Chaffetz said he will return to D.C. this weekend but said he doesn't know when he will be able to come home. He noted that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., had told Republicans to be prepared to be in Washington for Christmas and possibly the New Year's holiday.

"It is very frustrating," Lee said.

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