Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) repeated his call for a long-term, bipartisan agreement for the federal budget, and an end to the brinksmanship which has marred the fiscal debate since 2011. On the day President Barack Obama unveiled his budget proposal, Rep. Engel believes there are some positive and negative aspects of the budget proposal which should be considered in a House/Senate conference committee. While the President's budget was expected two months ago, the failure of the House leadership to resolve the fiscal cliff crisis pushed its release until this month.
"I opposed the sequester cuts from the start, calling them stupid and saying that we needed to cut with a fine scalpel rather than with a machete. While I would prefer the sequester cuts to be tossed out completely, at least the President took the scalpel approach to the mandated cuts. I am also pleased to see the proposed income tax threshold is no longer as low as $250,000 annual income, but now is increased for households who can better afford a rate of 30%," said Rep. Engel, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
He continued, "Also, the plan to change the Social Security COLA formula to one known as the Chained CPI is not acceptable. Chained CPI underestimates the cost of living for seniors because it doesn't account for the large amount of spending on health care which most seniors have to endure. The burden on our seniors is too large now, and this move would make matters worse."
For a better solution for Social Security, Rep. Engel is the author of the Guaranteed 3% Cost of Living For Seniors Act, which would guarantee a minimum three percent increase annually in COLA for Social Security recipients. Rep. Engel's legislation would mandate using the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E). This better captures inflation among those over 62, and is a better indication of seniors' spending habits. "It makes more sense than Chained CPI and will help seniors. To me, it is a simple solution and one which should be implemented right away," said Rep. Engel.
Rep. Engel expressed support for other aspects of the President's budget, including a tax incentive for small business who hire new workers and increase wages and for an increase on the cigarette tax to pay for expanded access to pre-kindergarten.
"I have repeatedly said that we are not going to have any progress on reducing the deficit and stabilizing our budget unless both sides compromise. These manufactured crises and stupid schemes such as the sequester need to cease immediately. Low- to middle-income families, many of which consist of two hard-working parents, live paycheck to paycheck and worry about paying for school clothes and utility bills. We cannot balance the budget on their backs by granting tax breaks for the wealthy while cutting aid for home heating bills. The American people want a government that fights for them, not against one another, and we need to start by presenting a fiscally-responsible, bipartisan budget to provide needed stability to our economy," added Rep. Engel.