With the swearing in of a new Congress, I continue to be humbled by the opportunity to represent the people of our great state. My top priority in this term remains strengthening our economy and supporting our middle class. That means reforming our tax code to benefit small businesses that create jobs here, closing our skills gap by improving career and technical education and making college affordable, and building a 21st century infrastructure to create jobs and support a 21st century economy.
In avoiding the fiscal cliff at the start of the year, Congress took an important vote for the middle class to begin 2013. While imperfect, this compromise provided a chance to set a more positive tone for the year ahead if Congress approaches our challenges with a renewed commitment to cooperation.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act, signed into law on Jan. 2, protects over 97 percent of Rhode Islanders from a tax rate increase and extends tax benefits vital to working families. It also extends unemployment insurance and, of particular interest to Rhode Island’s wind energy industry, includes tax credits for renewable energy, a critical policy to help create jobs in our state.
While I was disappointed that the agreement did not allow tax breaks to expire on income above $250,000, the $450,000 threshold allowed us to finally take a balanced approach to our debt as we demanded revenue increases on the very wealthy after more than $1.7 trillion in spending cuts enacted during the past two years. Seniors, students and the middle class cannot bear the whole burden of deficit reduction.
Unfortunately, this deal delayed a solution to across-the-board cuts for two months, when we will also need to increase the debt limit. I thank President Obama for saying he will not re-fight the last debt ceiling debacle that held the world economy hostage to extreme demands. America pays its bills, and we must use this week’s vote as a springboard toward negotiating in good faith on the next budget deal. Our challenges are eminently solvable if the uncompromising minority on the far right is no longer given the power to block bipartisan solutions.
I’m interested to hear from constituents about the recent agreement and about our priorities moving forward. I invite readers to contact me either by calling my office at 732-9400 or emailing me through my website: http://langevin.house.gov/contact-me/email-me.
I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year.