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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

 2:06 PM 

Wis. conference committee members kick off budget discussions

The 29-member budget conference committee charged with hammering out a long-term budget compromise kicked off this morning, with more members from Wisconsin -- three -- than any other state.

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson each serve on the Senate Budget Committee, which is represented in its entirety on the committee, while U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan will lead the GOP efforts as chair of the House Budget Committee.

No other state has more than two members serving on the committee.

Ryan, R-Janesville, issued an opening statement arguing that both Republicans and Democrats share the blame for the country's fiscal woes.

"Everybody was part of the problem, so everybody has to be part of the solution," Ryan said. "But you’ve got to make an accurate diagnosis before you can fill out a prescription. We’ve got to recognize what we’re dealing with."

Ryan said rising costs continue to drive up the nation's debt, and that "taking more from hardworking families just isn’t the answer."

"If this conference becomes an argument about taxes, we’re not going to get anywhere," Ryan said. "The way to raise revenue is to grow the economy. We need to write a tax code that encourages economic growth -- not stifles it."

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, echoed those sentiments during his opening statement, saying, "we're not dealing with a 10-year budget problem here."

"We're really dealing with a 30-year demographic, baby boom generation retiring problem," Johndon said. "Because if we just deal with the 10-year problem we are dramatically understating the size of the problem."

Baldwin, however, used her opening statement to reject the refrain that "Republicans won’t yield on any revenue and Democrats won’t yield on any changes to programs like Medicare and Medicaid."

"To be clear, the Senate Democratic budget includes revenue from cutting tax expenditures and closing tax loopholes, smart and targeted spending cuts, and $275 billion in entitlement savings -- which don’t include cutting senior’s benefits," said Baldwin, D-Madison. "The House Republican budget has significant cuts to benefits that provide economic security to millions of middle class families and zero dollars in revenue that could be used to invest in the essential pillars of economic growth."

Baldwin added that while "a grand bargain may be asking too much with this conference," she hopes to produce "a fair bargain for the American people."


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