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Demonstrators lobby Sen. Donnelly for tax hikes, spending cuts to avert sequester

An Elkhart County contingent met with U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly staff calling for new revenues as well as spending cuts to head off the sequester as implementation of the massive mix of spending cuts looms.
Posted on Feb. 20, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Feb. 20, 2013 at 6:46 p.m.

With a mix of massive spending cuts looming, a contingent from Elkhart County traveled to the South Bend office of U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly to lobby for an alternative.

A group of about a dozen gathered outside Donnelly’s office Wednesday, Feb. 20, holding signs and offering up speeches to any passersby. Then they met inside with one of the senator’s staffers to air their concerns.

The looming cuts, termed the sequester, “are going to hurt the working class and the middle class,” said Jeremy Bernstein, an organizer with the Indiana chapter of Americans for Democratic Action, the sponsor of Wednesday’s activities. He worries they could put teachers, construction workers and others out of work and many observers agree the sequester cuts could be debilitating to the U.S. economy.

Per an earlier agreement among U.S. lawmakers to trim the nation’s deficit, some $85 billion in cuts are to go in effect on March 1. The deadline was set to force officials to craft a more palatable alternative ahead of time, but so far they have been unable to reach common ground on a new proposal.

Bernstein, who’s from Goshen, said the group, which included a rep from the state AFL-CIO, touted three pending pieces of federal legislation that call for a mix of new revenue and spending cuts to replace the cuts outlined in the sequester. “We need to make sure corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share,” said Bernstein.

Obama and other Democrats, including Donnelly, have voiced support for a mix of new revenue — taxes — and spending cuts, while Republicans have called for a focus on spending cuts. Donnelly’s staffers, though, were non-committal on the legislation touted by Bernstein and his group, said Bernstein, speaking later Wednesday, after the meeting.

Among other things, the measures demonstrators favor would call for elimination of tax loopholes that they say favor large businesses.

Lawmakers agreed to a series of tax increases for the wealthiest Americans in late December ahead of another deadline in the deficit-reduction process, but Bernstein said those aren’t enough. “We need to do more,” he said.

The demonstrators came from Goshen, Elkhart and South Bend, among other places.

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