Nation avoids ‘cliff’

Local congressmen have questions and concerns about the “fiscal cliff” deal approved Tuesday.

The measure will raise taxes by about $600 billion over 10 years and delay for two months across-the-board cuts to the budgets of the Pentagon and numerous domestic agencies.

U.S. Reps. Bill Owens, a Democrat representing the 21st District, Chris Gibson, a Republican representing the 19th District, and Paul Tonko, a Democrat representing the 20th District, all supported the measure Tuesday.

The bill passed in the House by a vote of 257-167. Earlier Tuesday, the Senate passed the measure in a vote of 89-8.

“This will bring about a balanced approach to resolving the deficit and building more equitable treatment in tax policy,” Tonko said this morning. “This levels out the tax policy from the perspective of the middle class and was a sound way to approach the first step.”

Tonko, whose district includes eastern Montgomery County, said the bill will extend the middle-class tax cut and ask high income earners to pay more.

He said one of the major positive aspects of the legislation is the alternative minimum tax portion that permanently addresses the alternative minimum tax and indexes it for inflation to prevent nearly 30 million middle and upper-middle income taxpayers from being hit with a higher tax bill.

Tonko said he wants to see a lower cap on federal government contracts.

“People can add contracts that pay twice of the salary earned by our president, and I think that needs to be reviewed,” Tonko said.

“The bipartisan fiscal cliff agreement is not perfect. Indeed, it is far from it. But it is the right thing to do and is necessary to ensure taxes do not go up on hard-working middle-class families. It ensures more fairness and equality in the tax code while extending pro-growth, pro-business and pro-jobs policies. That is why I voted for this agreement,” Tonko said in a prepared statement.

“However, I am deeply troubled by the process and brinksmanship leading up to this point. In a few short weeks, our nation will again be tasked with raising the debt ceiling and dealing with massive spending cuts.”

Owens, whose district includes Fulton and Hamilton counties, said in a prepared statement, “This legislation represents a promise kept to protect the middle class from increased taxes while ensuring the very wealthy pay their fair share. While I would have liked to see the bill address spending and a comprehensive farm bill reauthorization, it was clear after weeks of negotiation that the time for talk was over. With middle-class tax hikes averted, Congress should now get to work cutting federal spending and addressing the need for good farm policy.”

Gibson, whose district includes western Montgomery County, said in a prepared statement, “Making these tax cuts permanent was one of my major goals when I first ran for Congress – this will help small businesses grow and working families keep more of their hard-earned money. …

“Unfortunately, we did not get the major agreement necessary to stabilize the deficit. We need to pick up the pace to achieve necessary long-term deficit reduction or we will decline as an economic power.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.