WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren wants cuts in spending to be a part of any deal that comes out of the fiscal cliff negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders.
An emerging agreement between the White House and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would raise taxes by about $600 billion over 10 years. However, Congress won't meet Monday midnight deadline on voting to avert the fiscal cliff. The plan also does not address how spending cuts to the Pentagon and numerous domestic agencies would be averted.
Unless an agreement is reached and approved by Congress at the start of the New Year, more than $500 billion in 2013 tax increases will take effect immediately and $109 billion in cuts will be carved from defense and domestic programs. While their effect will be gradual, economists and officials have said their combined impact will trigger another recession.
Hultgren, a freshman Congressman who won re-election in November, said he found the nature of the negotiations – behind closed doors – to be frustrating. He shared his views Monday afternoon in a phone interview with the Daily Chronicle.
"My fear is that so much focus has been put into increasing taxes and not what got us into this situation," said Hultgren, R-Winfield. "How do we stop spending money we don't have – I don't think that's happening in those discussions."
Hultgren said he did not have much insight into the negotiations between the Senate leadership and Vice President Joe Biden. He said he's prepared to cast votes either late tonight or sometime tomorrow.
With markets closed because of the New Year's holiday, that gives Congress a little breathing room, Hultgren said.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, said it's time for the Senate and White House to act in regards to the impending fiscal cliff.
“The House has acted time after time after time – well before the Jan. 1 deadline – to offer a balanced approach that stops the defense ‘sequester’ and tax hikes on all Americans," Kinzinger said.
Under the tentative agreement discussed Monday, the Bush-era tax cuts would be extended to individuals and couples earning up to $400,000 and $450,000 a year. People earning more than that would be taxed at 39.6 percent, not 35 percent.
Hultgren, who represents a portion of DeKalb County, said he is not a fan of tax increases, but added that he would approach any plan with an open mind.
"I'll look at it," Hultgren said. "I am convinced that our problems are not because we're under-taxed. Our problem is that we spend too much. Both our parties have been spending too much for far too long."
That said, Hultgren said he would not want to see planned spending cuts totaling $109 billion go through. He described this as being a "meat axe approach" and said there are much more effective ways to cut spending.
Both Hultgren and Kinzinger said they are hoping for a resolution.
"I'm hopeful that we can come to a conclusion that will avert another recession, but it's unclear at this time whether that is possible," Kinzinger said.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.