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Federal Budget Deadlines Stacking Up, This Year and Next

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 By Dan HeymanContact
November 23, 2011

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The failure of the congressional "super-committee" to meet its deadline has set some new deadlines.

The deficit already is falling, federal budget-watchers say, even without more action by Congress, but they add that lawmakers will have to act by the end of this year to stop potential drags on the economy.

Andrew Fieldhouse, federal budget policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, points to a temporary tax cut for working families and support for the long-term unemployed, both of which will expire unless Congress votes to extend them.

"The payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance would make a noticeable difference on economic growth. If the program is allowed to lapse, 1.8 million Americans will lose unemployment benefits."

According to the West Virginia Center On Budget and Policy Priorities, the state has one of the highest rates of citizens using Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Fieldhouse says cuts to Medicare provider payments are still up in the air, but otherwise the programs will continue as designed under current law.

"The implosion of the super-committee makes it much less likely that any of those programs are changed, in the near term."

The biggest battles, Fieldhouse says, could come at the end of next year, after the election. He says that's when the Bush tax cuts expire, the government gets close to the debt ceiling and the automatic budget cuts begin. He predicts those battles, especially the tax fights, will decide the size of the deficit for the next 10 years.

"Over the next decade, the difference for the public debt largely comes down to choices that will be made at the end of 2012 over the Bush-era tax cuts and other current tax policy."

President Obama wants Congress to cut taxes for working families by an average of $1,500 a year. Republicans say they want to further reduce the deficit by letting payroll taxes rise and unemployment benefits expire. Automatic cuts equally divided between defense and domestic spending are scheduled to start at the end of next year.

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