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Mon-Yough legislators: Fiscal cliff bill is 'imperfect, necessary'

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 3:47 a.m.

The Mon-Yough area's congressmen joined the rest of the state's House delegation in voting yes on a “fiscal cliff” bill called the American Taxpayer Relief Act.

“This bill will prevent income taxes from going up on households with incomes of less than $450,000 a year and individuals with incomes of less than $400,000,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills.

“The process and product are imperfect, but what has been achieved can't be overlooked,” said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair. “We've overcome the impasse to permanently lock in lower tax rates for 99 percent of taxpayers.”

The bill received 257 ayes and 167 nays, with eight not voting. House Republicans were split, 85 yes, 151 no, while Democrats favored it, 172-16.

The Senate passed it 89-8, with Sens. Bob Casey Jr., D-Scranton, and Pat Toomey, R-Allentown, voting yes. The bill now awaits President Barack Obama's signature.

“We still have a long way to go to get our economy back on track and get the federal budget under control,” Doyle said. “We still need a balanced, more comprehensive agreement combining spending cuts and more revenue with entitlement reforms that will avoid harming our most vulnerable citizens.”

Murphy said the bill opens the door to “significant cuts in federal spending, meaningful tax reform and pro-growth policies” in the next Congress.

Murphy, the 18th District Republican, stressed permanent extension of what have been called the George W. Bush tax cuts to most households as well as “other spending cuts” and a bar on raising the nation's debt ceiling.

Doyle, the 14th District Democrat, stressed a two-month delay in spending cuts.

“In addition, it will extend emergency unemployment benefits for another year,” Doyle said. “It provides a permanent fix to the Alternative Minimum Tax and a year-long ‘doc' fix.”

The latter prevents a reduction in Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals, the former amends a flat income tax first levied four decades ago from Americans with income above a certain threshold.

The Alternative Minimum Tax was aimed at wealthier citizens but until now hadn't been adjusted for inflation.

Doyle also stressed “that any savings or increased revenue produced by changes in Social Security should be used only for strengthening the Social Security Trust Fund, and not for deficit reduction.”

The vote was a swan song for two House members from nearby districts. The seat of Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, was wiped out by reapportionment. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, formerly had part of Forward Township in his 12th District.

Critz lost his bid for a full term to Rep.-elect Keith Rothfus, R-Edgeworth, whose term officially began after the 112th Congress expired.

Doyle and Murphy each won new terms, as did Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, a McKeesport native whose Ninth District extends to Monongahela.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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