By Phillip Jones
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) said Tuesday that Congress failing to reach a deal by year's end to avoid automatic tax increases and automatic federal spending cuts would be "totally unacceptable."
The tax hikes and spending cuts would come as a result of going over the so-called "Fiscal Cliff," a situation Republican House leaders and President Barack Obama are negotiating to avoid. It will be up to Congress members to aid party leaders in finding common ground, vote on that piece of legislation and get the president's signature.
"If we don't act," Hagan said, "taxes will go up on every single family in North Carolina. And I think that's totally unacceptable."
On top of that, Sen. Hagan said she is worried the automatic spending cuts -- which will affect military funding -- could provide a damaging one-two punch to North Carolina's economy. Those automatic cuts are also called "sequestration."
"If you look at the consequences of sequestration, they are amplified in our state because of the large military footprint we have ... and the economic importance of the defense industry to our local economies," Hagan said. "I personally feel that it's critical we avert any tax hike on middle class families and sequestration."
While it's party leaders who are conducting the negotiations, every lawmaker can pressure their leadership to compromise. Hagan says she's in a "Gang of 20" -- a group of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans that has met multiple times to examine what might happen if the deadline isn't met.
"The American people -- they're looking to us as their elected officials to solve this problem," Hagan said. "This problem is going to happen come Dec. 31 if we don't act. And that's why we've got to have a balanced decision that really encourages shared sacrifice and protects middle class families."
To make that happen, both sides have to be willing to say "all of it's on the table," Hagan said. That means adding revenue, cutting spending and reforming the tax code.
"Our major tax reform was last done in 1986," Hagan said. "The world has changed since then."
Given her calls for compromise, WFMY News 2 asked Hagan which parts of the Republican proposal she might include in a solution. The senator didn't offer specifics, but said "this is a negotiating process."
"It's just too important for the American people and too important for our economic security," Hagan said, "for Washington not to come together on this before the end of the year."
WFMY News 2 has reached out to Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to get his thoughts on the fiscal cliff proposals. We have been unable to arrange an interview, though his office did release a statement Friday. The other members of the Triad's Congressional delegation also weighed in on the likelihood of striking a deal. Click here to read their thoughts.