By Pat Warren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The pressure is on the president and Congress to reach a budget deal before tax increases and big spending cuts kick in Jan. 1. It’s being called the fiscal cliff.

Pat Warren explains what’s at stake for Maryland.

“Sequestration is something that we have to make sure we avoid,” said Senator Elijah Cummings.

“Over half a million Marylanders depend directly on the federal government for their jobs,” said Senator Andy Harris.

“The middle class has suffered enough,” said Cummings.

“All Marylanders will be affected if we allow the fiscal cliff to happen,” said Harris.

Maryland’s economy teeters on the edge. What’s at stake? Maryland is fourth in line in the amount of money it receives from the feds. Government supports 300,000 direct jobs and another 200,000 in contractors. Billions are poured into the state in grants and research and development.

But while Republicans and Democrats agree that they can’t let it happen, they spar over divvying responsibility, taxes on the wealthy and cuts to government spending.

“If we raise the taxes that the president has called on for millionaires, it’ll solve one/twenty-fifth of the deficit,” Harris said.

“There are people who do fine and have continued to do fine throughout this recession and those are people who are well off,” Cummings said.

“It can’t begin to solve our fiscal problems and we shouldn’t pretend that it does,” Harris said.

“They ought to be helping to pay something now,” Cummings said.

“Just tell the American people–be honest with them–these are promises we can’t afford to keep. We wish we could but right now, it looks like we can’t afford to keep them,” Harris said.

“The Republicans…what they are saying is they don’t want them to pay a dime more,” Cummings said.

But while it seems like an impasse, gridlock is not an option.

“Congress likes to kick the can down the road just a little bit and now I think we can’t afford to do it,” Harris said.

“It cannot be what it has been in the past on the part of the Republicans, that attitude of my way or the highway,” Cummings said.

“This is how compromises start. They don’t start from the middle and work their way to the edges; they start from the edges, work their way toward the middle. Right now, we’re still around the edges,” Harris said.

“While it may appear right now that there are two boxers standing in different corners, the fact is that I know we’ll come together because we have no choice,” Cummings said.

Although everyone seems to agree this can’t last forever, everyone also seems to agree they’ll be kicking the can down the road at least until the new Congress is sworn in.

Cummings and Harris both expect Congress to extend the deadline beyond Jan. 1.


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