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Fiscal Summit Can Help Preserve Tax Cuts, Lay Groundwork for Spending and Deficit Reduction

By Senator Ben Nelson

One of my first initiatives as governor in the early 1990’s was to create “One Nebraska” which brought people of different backgrounds together to work out their differences and resolve problems facing the state. We were one family that was able to rise to any challenge and it worked well.

Today, we need a “One Nation” that brings people with different views together to work out America’s problems, beginning with the tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year. Those tax cuts need to be extended at least until our economy recovers, but members of Congress are going to have to put aside some of their differences to make  it happen.

A Letter to the President

I’ve written to President Obama and encouraged him to call on congressional leaders and others to join him in a bipartisan, bicameral summit right after the elections to find ways to work cooperatively on spending cuts, taxes and deficit reduction.

I have suggested holding a private discussion, free of posturing and playing to the cameras, perhaps at Camp David. If that setting could lead to the Camp David Middle East Peace Accords, you would think a Camp David Fiscal Summit could lead to preserving tax cuts, and possibly lay the groundwork for spending cuts and deficit reduction.

Just like we did in Nebraska, I envision collaboration instead of competition. The Camp David Fiscal Summit could foster an open exchange of ideas on fiscal issues in advance of a bipartisan Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform report expected in December. Regardless of the outcome of the November 2 elections, this discussion must occur.

Why the Tax Cuts are Necessary

The expiring tax cuts would be the first order of business. Most Americans see the need to extend them. I certainly do. I saw the need in 2001 and 2003 when I not only voted for the tax cuts but helped negotiate them. In 2001, we had a budget surplus, so it made sense let Americans keep more of their money and not continue shipping it off to Washington. Keeping money in taxpayer hands also made sense in 2003.

Today, raising anyone’s taxes, given our fragile economy, would be a move in the wrong direction. Nebraskans tell me that they feel a lot of uncertainty about the future.

The possibility of tax increases is one reason that many businesses are holding onto cash, and are hesitant to invest in new equipment, new production and new employees.

In Nebraska, the average middle income family currently pays $3,461 a year in federal income taxes. If the tax cuts expire their tax bill would raise to $5,090… an increase of $1,629.

While extending all of the tax cuts is best for our economy, if my only option is to vote for extending just the middle class tax cuts, I will not hold them hostage, I will vote yes.

For the good of the nation we love and the freedoms we all cherish we need to come together as a Nation, and work out these kinds of issues. My hope is a Camp David Fiscal Summit can be the start of a new way of getting things done for the American people.