“Here’s what I think is going to happen if I had to guess right now. I think the president’s probably going to get his way,” said Chambliss, R-Ga.
Obama and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner are haggling over whether to allow an automatic increase in income taxes for people earning more than $250,000. Obama favors the tax while Boehner doesn’t.
Chambliss said, based on his experience in the House and Senate, he believes a deal will be struck that avoids the fiscal cliff at the last moment.
But negotiations in Washington usually don’t gel, he said, until a deadline approaches such as the coming Christmas vacation.
The senator offered his forecast to members of the state General Assembly meeting at the University of Georgia for issue briefings ahead of their own session that starts Jan. 14. The state lawmakers had just gotten a sober assessment of Georgia’s own financial situation during closed-door presentations by their leaders.
Since much of what the state spends comes from federal programs, Georgians were interested to hear whether Chambliss would bring good news. Many of those programs would be cut automatically Jan. 1, along with hikes in a range of federal taxes, unless Congress comes up with alternative ways to reduce the gap in what Washington receives and what it spends known as the federal deficit.
The accumulation of each annual deficit is the country’s outstanding debt, which totals nearly $17 trillion.
Chambliss is a leader in the Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of senators who crafted proposals for deficit reduction. He said Boehner’s negotiating stance draws heavily from work done by the Gang of Six.
When the senator listed the gang’s three goals, the state legislators applauded at the first one, cutting federal spending. However, the conservative crowd didn’t make a peep when he mentioned the other two, reforming entitlements like Medicare and raising federal revenue.
Chambliss has drawn vocal criticism from conservatives for publicly stating that he was no longer bound by a pledge he signed as a candidate 20 years ago not to raise taxes. He and the gang are calling for the elimination of most tax credits and deductions — but keeping the home mortgage and charity deductions.
“When I said that I had a problem with the pledge, it had nothing to do with me wanting to raise taxes, but it had everything to do with the fact that I know the we’ve got to begin paying down that (federal debt),” he said. “I’m not going to have some lobbyist in Washington tell me ‘here’s the way you’re going to do it.’”
The state lawmakers will hear from a range of experts over the next two days about issues coming before the General Assembly, from education to crime. Gov. Nathan Deal addresses the group Tuesday and is expected to offer at least some hints about his own financial blueprint for the state.