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Published: Thursday, 1/31/2013

Sen. Portman to introduce proposals to cut U.S. deficit

Pamela Sullivan, center, is part of a group of people organized by the AFL-CIO  protesting cuts to Social Security at the Social Security Administration building in Toledo. Pamela Sullivan, center, is part of a group of people organized by the AFL-CIO protesting cuts to Social Security at the Social Security Administration building in Toledo.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said Wednesday he plans to introduce a couple of amendments that will push Congress and the administration to take action to reduce the size of the federal budget in return for increasing the long-term debt limit.

Meanwhile, a group of about 25 people saying they represent workers and the elderly demonstrated Wednesday outside the Social Security Administration office at 4906 Monroe St., one of several public events organized by the AFL-CIO labor federation, to pressure Congress to eliminate tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy and to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from cuts.

Mr. Portman said his first amendment would require a $1 cut in spending for every $1 increase in the long-term debt ceiling. He said over time his amendment would bring spending down to about 20 percent of gross domestic product, which is close to the 50-year average, instead of the 24 percent it is now.

His second amendment would require cuts adding up to about 4 percent a year if Congress refuses to pass a budget.

In Toledo, more than two dozen people carried signs and listened to speeches in the rain. Pamela Sullivan, 64, a retired state employee, said the purpose of the protest was to promote awareness.

“Social Security is not the cause of our economic difficulties. We have loopholes in Washington that need to be closed,” Ms. Sullivan said. “You have 2 percent of Americans that make a lot of money on the backs of individuals that are struggling here.” She contended that Social Security would be in better shape if the economy improved.

Michael Gillis, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO, said the budget “imbalance” is driven by health-care costs, but he said the solution is to make delivery of care more cost-effective rather than to shift the costs to beneficiaries.

Mr. Portman said he has met with groups demanding higher taxes for wealthy people and prevention of entitlement cuts and told them that it is not possible to raise taxes enough to maintain current Social Security benefits. “Entitlement programs are incredibly important. They’re vital, they’re a safety net, but they're not sustainable in their current form so we need to have entitlement reform in addition to pro-growth tax reform,” Mr. Portman said. “It's a question of math, not ideology.”

Mr. Gillis recommended cutting a loophole he said allows corporations to get a lower effective tax rate for sending jobs overseas. And he said Medicare is prohibited from negotiating lower drug prices with drug companies. Mr. Portman has said he supports ending tax expenditures and loopholes to boost U.S. competitiveness, growth, investment, and entrepreneurship.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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