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Delegation divided on crisis measure

By MARY CLARKIN

Special to The Hays Daily News

HUTCHINSON -- Votes this week on legislation to forestall widespread spending cuts and tax hikes divided the all-Republican Kansas delegation in Washington.

The state's two senators -- Pat Roberts of Dodge City and Jerry Moran of Manhattan -- voted for the "fiscal cliff" package. All four Kansans serving in the House voted against it.

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Fowler/Hutchinson, opposed the overall bill, even though he said he found some things to like about it -- including the extension of the farm bill and a halt to congressional cost-of-living raises.

The package also extends the wind production tax credit that had been sought by wind energy companies, including Siemens Wind Power in Hutchinson.

In addition to energy tax breaks and incentives, the more-than-100-page bill contains "extenders" that benefit other industries. Beneficiaries include NASCAR racetracks, the film industry, mining companies and rum imports -- with that revenue helping Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

"Just another deal by Washington insiders -- with no real solutions" is how Huelskamp described the bill.

"Just more crony capitalism," was the view of U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita.

"Our autopilot spending is eating our country's fiscal health alive," said U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, before the final vote.

On his Facebook page after the vote, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, Overland Park, wrote: "I could not support legislation that raised taxes without cutting spending and solving the debt crisis that plagues our nation."

The House vote was 257-167, but in the Senate, only eight members voted no.

Roberts and Moran were pleased the rising income tax rates -- climbing for individuals earning $400,000 or more a year and families earning $450,000 or more annually -- won't affect most Americans.

Roberts also noted the bill "provides consumers certainty by avoiding the dairy cliff."

"It also limits the increases that would otherwise occur in taxes on dividends and capital gains -- and, most importantly to Kansas farmers, ranchers and business owners, permanently reduces the estate tax rates and locks in a $10 million per couple exemption," Moran said in a statement.

Roberts and Moran criticized the bill they voted for, too, because of the government's deficit. But going over the "fiscal cliff" would have triggered sweeping income tax increases they considered unacceptable.

Looking ahead, Moran said, "Spending is now front and center in this debate."