“The Congress passed a bill preventing us from going over the fiscal cliff,” he said during a speech to members of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber Chairman’s Circle Monday at UPS world headquarters in Sandy Springs. “It gave certainty for tax rates for the first time in 13 years.”
Isakson named several positive effects of the new bill, including preserving the state tax exemption to $5 million and equalizing capital gains and dividends.
“The only taxes that went up were people making over $400,000 and $450,000,” he said. “We were proud to be part of it, … proud the Senate did something in a bipartisan fashion.”
“Are there any opportunities to improve?” one audience member asked Isakson, in reference to the overall political climate in Washington.
Isakson responded with an explanation about the public’s near-immediate exposure to the “toxic environment” of Congress.
“Most of Congress [members] are hardworking good people, … but people believe what they are exposed to,” he said. “The barkers and yellers get TV time. … On a day-in-day-out basis, there are literally hundreds of decisions that never make newspapers that are very essential to us, done in a bipartisan fashion.”
Still, Isakson said there are three more “cliffs” left: sequestration, continuing resolution and the $16.5 trillion debt ceiling, which will all be dealt with in the next 60 days.
“Fasten your seatbelt,” he said.
The debt ceiling is suspended right now, until Aug. 18, which means the U.S. Treasury can borrow all it needs to pay the U.S. government without a cap, Isakson said.
“We have to reach a decision by then,” he said.
Isakson described sequestration as a “poison pill no one thought Congress would ever take in August 2011.”
He said automatic sequestration, which means cutting the government’s budget across the board without regard of what is being cut, will take effect March 1.
“I don’t think there’s going to be anything else to stop it,” Isakson said, “but the yelling and screaming will be so loud within the first two weeks, Congress will finally deal with it.”
He said he thinks Congress will come back in session and assign specific cuts for each year.
“We need to prioritize by rewarding those doing well and cut those who are not,” Isakson said.
The final cliff, continuing resolution, corresponds to the government’s current condition.
“The Senate has not passed a budget or appropriations act for 3.5 years,” he said. “We operate on CRs [Continuing Resolutions].”
But the resolutions run out March 27, then the government “goes out of business,” Isakson said, “unless we tend to it.”
He thinks the resolutions will extend to the end of the year, he said.
“We’ll get to business of truly appropriating this summer for the next fiscal year,” Isakson said. “That’s my hope; that’s my dream.”