The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 30, 2013

Budget negotiations open with happy talk but firm positions

GOP doesn't want to talk taxes, Democrats ready for spending cuts but want to attack tax loopholes


The notion of updating the tax code got support from Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a former White House budget director, who said the “current system is antiquated” and “it’s obvious to me that this is urgent.”

The conference committee was formed as part of the deal to reopen the parts of the government that were shut down for 16 days during a congressional battle over the Affordable Care Act and raising the nation’s debt ceiling. The shutdown and the threat of a potential default on U.S. debt zapped consumer confidence and are widely viewed as having slowed an already underperforming economy.

In fact, as lawmakers met to discuss ways to prevent another shutdown, the Federal Reserve ended a two-day meeting Wednesday by leaving in place its controversial bond-buying program, which was designed to stimulate the economy.

“Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth,” the Fed said in a statement, suggesting that the sharp cuts in government spending are dragging down an otherwise stronger underlying rate of growth.

That may be true, but the combination of tax hikes that began in January and spending cuts that began in March led to a steep drop in the budget deficit. The Treasury Department released final budget numbers late Wednesday for the 2013 fiscal year, which showed a deficit of $680 billion. That’s $409 billion below the previous year and $293 billion less than the Obama administration had anticipated in its proposed budget for fiscal 2014. The deficit, expressed as a percentage of the total economy, fell by 2.7 percentage points to 4.1 percent.

Conference committee members must reconcile differences in competing budget plans: the $3.53 trillion budget passed by the Republican-controlled House and the $3.7 trillion budget passed by the Democratic-held Senate.

The House plan would repeal most of the health care law, significantly revamp Medicare and Medicaid, and overhaul the tax code, in part by reducing the corporate tax rate and eliminating the alternative minimum tax.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • ND deputy hurt in scuffle Suspect charged with assaulting, trying to disarm law officer

    July 28, 2014

  • Fergus Falls plans deer hunt Hunters are selected by a lottery, pay $20 fee

    July 28, 2014

  • Man killed in home invasion Homeowner's son in Ray, Minn., fires fatal shot

    July 28, 2014

  • Charges filed in July 8 fatal Dodge Center woman criminally charged in fatal car crash

    July 28, 2014

  • American doctor in Africa gets treatment for Ebola BOONE, N.C. (AP) — An American doctor infected with the deadly Ebola disease received intensive treatment Sunday in West Africa and was in stable condition, talking to his medical team and working on his computer, a spokeswoman for an aid group said.

    July 27, 2014

  • Salmonella Outbreak Trial [Duplicate] Trial in salmonella outbreak to start in Georgia ATLANTA (AP) — Three people accused of scheming to manufacture and ship salmonella-tainted peanuts that killed nine people, sickened more than 700 and prompted one of the largest food recalls in history are set to go to trial this week in south Georg

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pitfalls emerge in health insurance renewals WASHINGTON — For the 8 million people who persevered through all the technical travails in the new health insurance exchanges and managed to sign up for coverage in 2014, their policies will probably automatically renew come November when open enroll

    July 27, 2014

  • Hamas agrees to 24-hour holiday truce in Gaza war GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas on Sunday agreed to observe a 24-hour truce in Gaza after initially rejecting a similar Israeli offer, as fighting resumed and the two sides wrangled over the terms of a lull that international diplomats had hoped c

    July 27, 2014

  • Solar car race to end at University of Minnesota MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A cross-country solar car race is set to finish at the University of Minnesota on Monday. About 10 solar cars from colleges around the world are competing in the eight-day, 1,700-mile American Solar Challenge. The race began July

    July 27, 2014

  • Dozens of oil trains pass through Minnesota weekly Railroad documents released by the state Department of Public Safety show about 50 trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota are passing through Minnesota each week.

    July 26, 2014