Chamber Of Commerce Members Hear From U.S. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, State Rep. Paul Clymer About Fiscal Cliff

Perkasie News Herald

The looming year-end “fiscal cliff” of federal government tax cuts expiring and spending cuts kicking in isn’t just about somebody else or whether the wealthiest people should pay more in taxes.

“It’s going to effect everybody in the country,” said Thomas Skiffington, Government Affairs and Legislative Issues chairman for the Pennridge Chamber of Commerce.

“This fiscal cliff is a real serious issue,” Judy Wright, of Action Karate, Souderton, said shortly before the start of a discussion on the subject at a lunchtime meeting Dec. 11 attended by about 50 members of the Pennridge, Indian Valley and Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce groups and held at Revivals Restaurant and Banquets in Perkasie.

“Local businesses integrate the community and we’re concerned about higher taxes,” Wright said. “Let’s not forget the local boroughs and townships are raising their taxes because they’re getting less money.”

The meeting, with its presentations by U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzgerald, R-8, state Rep. Paul Clymer, R-145, and local business representatives, was to get the facts out and help give the business people a chance to let their point of view be heard, Skiffington, of Re/Max 440, said.

“The big issues are not just tax rates,” Fitzpatrick said.

A balance of increased revenue and decreased spending is needed, he said, but the discussions now going on haven’t addressed additional issues, such as the reduction in Medicare reimbursements and the once again approaching debt ceiling.

“Let’s solve it once. Let’s do it right and let’s not do it again,” Fitzpatrick said.

Not everyone will be happy with the ways that is accomplished, he said, but, “At least you know the matter’s solved and the country can move on.”

His role as a legislator is to keep taxes down and reduce wasteful spending, he said.

Simply increasing the tax rates for the wealthiest people in the country would only fund a few more days of the current spending levels, he said.

“Is that going to really solve the issue that we have here?” Fitzpatrick said.

The people making the most income are also the ones with loopholes to shelter income from taxes, he said.

“We need to make sure everybody pays their fair share in this country,” Fitzpatrick said, drawing the beginning of applause from one audience member as Fitzpatrick said he would prefer a flat income tax rate that eliminated loopholes.

In his visits to businesses during this year’s election campaign, Fitzpatrick said, he heard three things: “Taxes are too high,” “Regulations are out of control” and “Health care costs are killing our ability to expand our business.”

“The bottom line is we need to focus on what really matters, which is re-establishing the American Dream,” Fitzpatrick said.

To do that, there needs to be more jobs, along with a growth in revenue and cuts in spending by the government, he said.

In answer to an audience question about including defense spending in the cuts, Fitzpatrick said he advocates freezing the level of defense spending, rather than an increase or decrease.

In answer to questions about the balanced budget requirements of the 1990s, Fitzpatrick said a weaker economy and increased government spending are two of the reasons those balanced budgets no longer exist, but also said “accounting gimmickry” was used in some of the earlier claims of balanced budgets.

“It’s easy to pass a budget and say we’re gonna cut X, Y and Z 10 years from now, not today,” Fitzpatrick said.

The United States should also be focusing more on using energy sources from North America, including gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, both Fitzpatrick and Clymer said.

Although he’s not trying to tell the federal legislators what to do, Clymer said, he has some suggestions for dealing with the fiscal cliff.

“Is a solution possible? Hopefully, yes,” Clymer said. “However, Congressional House Republicans may have difficulty swallowing the bitter political pill President Obama has placed before them.”

Proposals currently being raised will lead to higher inflation, unemployment and debt, he said.

“In a normal market, I would be extremely optimistic for American manufacturing and I would see huge opportunities,” William Marsh, co-owner of American Bar Products, Warminster, said.

Instead, though, his business now has a hiring freeze, is reducing capital expenses and is “battening down the hatches,” Marsh said.

The three big reasons for that is that government energy policies don’t provide what manufacturers need, students are not being educated to enter the workforce and there’s too much government debt, he said.

The people called upon to speak for the business community in the governmental discussions of the fiscal cliff are heads of businesses that have the government as large customers and who want to keep and increase that business, he said.

The current discussions also won’t eliminate the federal government’s deficit spending, he said.

“They’re talking about reducing it a little. That’s not good enough,” Marsh said.

Bill Edmunds, of B&G Manufacturing, Hatfield, said if tax rates increase for small business owners whose personal tax is tied to the business, they will increase the amount taken in salary to account for the taxes.

“There will be less left over that will be going back into our businesses,” Edmunds said.

In the short term, increased taxes will bring in more money for the government, but ultimately, it will slow the rate of economic growth and it’s that growth that is needed, Edmunds said.

In closing, Clymer reminded those in attendance to do their Christmas shopping.

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