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Local legislators explain 'no' votes on fiscal cliff deal

Two local congressmen voted against the “fiscal cliff” deal that ultimately was passed by both chambers of Congress late Tuesday night.

U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, and Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, both voted against H.R. 8 – a package they say didn’t go far enough to reduce spending.

The House passed the measure, 257-167, Tuesday.

The measure would increase the top income tax rate to 39.6 percent on income of more than $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples.

Decade-old income tax cuts remain the same for everyone else.

The measure also extends unemployment insurance for the rest of the year.

Hultgren said there were many parts of the bill he liked, but he said it ultimately didn’t go far enough in cutting spending.

“What I see as the biggest threats are the debt and continued spending path,” he said. “... It was a difficult decision for me. There were many parts I liked.”

Hultgren said he agreed with the portion of the bill that dealt with estate taxes.

The bill would raise taxes paid on dividends, capital gains and inherited estates. He said he also liked that the bill would stabilize tax rates for years to come.

“I’m just frustrated with both parties – both Republicans and Democrats – who make year-to-year tax policy changes,” he said. “That increases uncertainty for people with small businesses. [That change] was the best part.”

Stephanie Genco, a spokeswoman for Roskam, said Roskam “certainly wasn’t happy” with the lack of spending cuts in the bill.

“There was no attempt to cut spending. That’s the heart of the issue,” she said.

She said the nation’s $16 trillion in debt won’t be solved without reigning in government spending. She said Congress needs to make serious reforms to government programs, taxes and the nation’s tax codes.

“The idea that revenues will take care of this is a false premise,” Genco said.

Like Hultgren, she said there were parts of the bill Roskam did agree with, including the part that keeps tax rates low for a large number of Americans.

Hultgren said moving forward, committees will have to work to find areas to cut spending while trying to keep a high level of service. He said Congress should continue to cut out any duplication of services, as well. He said it may also be time to re-examine older policies that are no longer relevant.

“It’s about getting back to where we’re not spending more than we’re taking in,” he said.

Hultgren added that the bill passed Tuesday may affect lawmakers’ decisions in the future regarding sequestration and the debt ceiling.

U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Hinsdale, voted yes on the bill, but couldn’t be reached for comment. U.S. Rep. Bill Foster was elected to replace Biggert during the Nov. 6 election and also could not be reached for comment.

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