Unions pressure senators to protect entitlements

Colorado’s two senators, both Democrats who have supported a bipartisan budget proposal rejected by President Barack Obama and top Republicans, are the focal point of an ad blitz pressuring them to protect entitlement programs.

The ads, which were released by several unions, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union and the National Education Association, urge senators to protect entitlement programs.

Social Security and Medicare are the federal government’s largest entitlement programs.

Instead of cutting those programs, the unions urge Congress to raise taxes on high earners.

Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both backers of the recommendation made by the Simpson-Bowles commission for $4 trillion in combined tax increases and budget cuts over the next 10 years, didn’t respond directly to the ads, which are running in Colorado and other states.

“Rigidity and a refusal to compromise are how we got into this situation,” Udall said in a statement. “Everything needs to be on the table: Spending cuts, new revenue and common-sense entitlement reform.”

Bennet sounded similar notes in a statement calling for a “fair deal that includes revenue and strengthens Medicare and Medicaid so they are sustainable for generations to come.”

Negotiations among congressional leaders and President Obama are being driven by the approach of the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which refers to an end-of-the-year deadline to avoid a package of tax increases and spending cuts that go into effect automatically without congressional action.

Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and Erskine Bowles, chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, led the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that offered several recommendations, including reductions in entitlement spending, increasing federal gasoline taxes, cutting the corporate income-tax rate from 35 percent to 26 percent, reducing the federal workforce by 10 percent and eliminating or reducing the home-mortgage deduction, among other measures.

The fiscal cliff refers to the expiration of reductions in income-tax rates and capital gains and inheritance taxes commonly referred to as the Bush tax cuts, as well as the 2 percent Social Security payroll tax cut and across-the-board spending cuts to most discretionary programs.

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