Senator Kent Conrad met with a group of North Dakota business leaders in Bismarck today to update them on bipartisan efforts to address the nation's long-term fiscal crisis.
In remarks to the Western Dakota Estate Planning Council, Senator Conrad, the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said he continues to meet with a small group of Republican and Democratic Senators who are working on a bipartisan and balanced long-term deficit reduction plan. The group believes deficits need to be reduced by at least some $4 trillion over the next 10 years, and is using the much heralded Simpson-Bowles Fiscal Commission plan as its framework.
"A lot of important behind-the-scenes work is being done now on the key elements of a comprehensive, balanced and bipartisan long-term fiscal plan," explained Senator Conrad. "While our small group consists of four Democrats and four Republicans, upwards of 40-plus Republican and Democratic Senators are supporting and encouraging our efforts to reach a balanced agreement that includes entitlement changes, tax reform and additional spending cuts."
Conrad also talked about the so-called "Fiscal Cliff" and its associated tax increases and spending cuts that are scheduled to take place at the start of the new year. He expressed concern that if unchanged, the Fiscal Cliff could harm the near-term economy. He went on to say that the pressure to avoid the Fiscal Cliff could help prompt lawmakers to take on the politically difficult task of passing a comprehensive plan.
"As we look to avoid the Fiscal Cliff, it is my hope that we can replace the scheduled arbitrary, across-the-board sequester cuts and tax increases with even more savings from a balanced and comprehensive plan, like the Bowles-Simpson framework, that includes savings from entitlements, including health care, and tax reform that raises revenue," said Senator Conrad. "It is important that we adopt a comprehensive plan now, but that it be phased-in carefully so that the changes don't worsen the fragile economic recovery."
Senator Conrad and former Republican Senator Judd Gregg came up with the idea that led to the creation of the Simpson-Bowles Fiscal Commission. Senator Conrad served on the Commission and was one of the five Democrats, five Republicans and one independent on the Commission who voted for the plan.