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Mrs. FISCHER. Madam President, I rise today to speak on the budget proposal released at long last yesterday by President Obama. Tardy though this budget may be, and despite our differences in opinion, I welcome the President's ideas to begin addressing our Nation's fiscal crisis and runaway spending. Unfortunately, though, I am disappointed that this budget amounts to more taxes, more spending, and more debt. The President's budget calls for $1.1 trillion more in taxes, on top of the $660 billion in tax hikes the President already demanded and won as part of the fiscal cliff deal enacted at the beginning of the year, before I arrived in Washington. That is a grand total of $1.8 trillion in tax hikes--before we add in another trillion dollar tax from ObamaCare. Yet, despite all of this new so-called ``revenue,'' the President's budget would never balance. No amount of taxes will ever begin to address our Nation's $17 trillion debt.
But taxes aren't the only problem with the President's budget. There is also a trillion dollars in new spending. We tried that in 2009. It didn't work then and it won't work now. To spend more, we have to borrow more. The President's budget would add $8.2 trillion in new debt over the next 10 years.
Of particular concern to farmers, ranchers, and small businesses in Nebraska is a proposed hike in the death tax. Under the fiscal cliff deal reached at the beginning of this year, the death tax was set at 40 percent, with an exemption per estate of $5 million, indexed for inflation. This is already an increase from 2011 and 2012, when the death tax rate was 35 percent. The President's budget, however, would hike the rate further, to 45 percent, while also diminishing the exemption per estate to $3.5 million.
This disregards the bipartisan will of Congress. The Senate has repeatedly supported a lower death tax rate and higher exemption. Just 3 weeks ago, 80 senators--myself included--supported an amendment seeking to repeal, or at least reduce, the death tax. Instead, the President's death tax proposal would result in a $72 billion tax hike. This would be particularly harmful to family farmers and ranchers in my State of Nebraska and across our Nation. On average, more than 80 percent of the value of a family-owned farm or ranch is derived from land, buildings, and equipment. Following the death of a loved one, families often must sell part or even all of their land and property to pay the death tax bill. Yet these are illiquid assets which rarely receive their assessed value on the open market, leaving families to take cents on the dollar in order for them to keep that farm or ranch.
Each day, farmers and ranchers across Nebraska and the United States rise well before dawn only to retire well after dark. After building a successful enterprise, family farmers and ranchers should be able to pass along the fruits of their labor to their children. Instead, the President's budget proposal would reward this lifetime of hard work with a higher tax bill.
I will proudly cosponsor legislation to be introduced soon by Senator John Thune to permanently repeal the death tax. Absent a full repeal, I will continue fighting to ensure that family farmers, ranchers, and other small businesses escape as much of the brunt of the death tax as possible. This is not to say that I disagree with every aspect of the President's budget. Medicare and Social Security are both on the path to insolvency. I appreciate that the President sees this unsustainable path and has offered concrete proposals to reform these programs.
Without action, seniors and other beneficiaries will see steep cuts in benefits from Medicare by 2024 and Social Security by 2033. While these cuts will not come overnight, neither will the solutions we need to keep the promises we have made to our seniors and those nearing retirement.
This is the first step in what will be--and quite frankly needs to be--a prolonged, well-reasoned debate. I look forward to working with the President in good faith to reform and save these critical programs. I also appreciate the President's desire for revenue-neutral corporate tax reform. The devil, of course, is in the details. I have great reservations that the President's proposal would basically redistribute tax preferences instead of doing more to bring down what is the highest corporate income tax rate in the world. And I believe that we should not merely do this on the corporate side but reform our entire tax code on a revenue-neutral basis in order to unleash the economic growth of our Nation.
There are areas where we can work together--and I am eager to do so. But higher taxes, higher spending, and higher debt are not the answer to the fiscal challenges our Nation faces.
I yield the floor.
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