By Jane Michaels
A problem-solving, bipartisan approach to debt reduction and job creation is key to the nation's future, U. S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-3rd, from Western Springs, told business and community leaders Monday.
Lipinski said he was disappointed the Simpson-Bowles budget, developed by leaders of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, drew little support in March for a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases to slash the federal deficit by $4 trillion during the next decade.
"Out of 435 members in the House, it got only 38 votes," he said. "It was attacked from both the left and the right. Hopefully there will be a time when we can come together and agree to figure out how to cut the deficit."
Lipinski said grappling with federal spending and the expiration of a series of tax breaks is essential because of the effect on federal credit.
"We see what's happening in Europe with governments there borrowing money," he said. "People around the world are willing to lend us money at low rates, but once those markets lose confidence, those rates will shoot up."
The congressman said he was frustrated fiscal issues haven't drawn more attention and cooperation and that likely little would be done until after the November election.
"I'm disappointed both sides are not talking about these issues," he said. "It's a shame we haven't had the leadership on the presidential level. There should be a petition for the presidential candidates to debate the national debt."
When asked if he favors extending the Bush-era tax credits for all, including those making more than $250,000 a year, Lipinski said he believes we need to prevent a tax increase on the middle class, but that extending the tax cuts for the highest earners should be considered in the context of the need to reduce the deficit.
"I thought it was bad to raise taxes during a recession," he said. "But if we do that and don't deal with the rescissions, it will have a terrible impact on the national deficit."
A Lipinski spokesman, Nathaniel Zimmer, later clarified the comments to say Lipinski supports extending the credit for the "middle class" but would not put a number on what income constitutes middle class. But Zimmer said allowing the tax credits to expire for the highest earners would depend on what deficit reduction measure are taken.
Lipinski pledged to continue working with a bipartisan committee for a responsible federal budget and a "no labels" group of lawmakers committed to finding solutions for the economy, health-care reform and other issues.
As the ranking Illinois member of the transportation committee, Lipinski updated members of the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry on funding for area projects.
Of the $100 million earmarked for the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program to separate grade-level railroad crossings from roads, money has been set aside for a two-year design study of 47th Street and East Avenue bordering La Grange, Countryside and Brookfield.
"The big thing is the funding for construction, estimated at $48 million and $7.1 million for land acquisition," he said. "Unfortunately, we have so little. It's not easy to get that, but I will keep fighting."
Lipinski said it's unlikely Joliet Road will reopen through the quarry operated by Vulcan Materials Co., after it was damaged by mining operations, but that the $40 million settlement reached in the case will go for projects to improve the flow of traffic.
Lipinski's remarks drew positive reviews.
"I liked what he said about being part of the no label group and bipartisan efforts," said Beth McCormack, owner of Express Employment in Brookfield.
Ed Farrell, senior vice president at the Hinsdale Bank & Trust, said he hoped some of Lipinski's views would spur people to take leadership roles and solve problems.
"If he has such a common-sense approach, I wonder why others are so biased," said Terry Markby, owner of Markby and Co., Inc. in La Grange. "He's a common-sense guy with the best interest of the country at heart."