U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson told a local civic club gathering Tuesday that he believes there is hope for the federal budget after some recent positive steps.
“In the first 90 days, we’ve done more than we’ve done the last three years,” said Isakson, a Republican from Marietta who serves on the Senate Committee on Finance.
“We passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through the end of this year and included in it three appropriations bills. The Senate had not passed an appropriations bill until then. For the last three years, we’ve been on cruise control.”
Addressing a meeting of the North Forsyth Rotary Club at the Coal Mountain Community Building, Isakson said the scenario he described had caused many problems.
“I always make the joke, ‘What happens when the Senate operates for three years without passing a budget?’” he said. “We spend $10.6 trillion and don’t know where it went. That’s what happens when you don’t have any discipline.”
Isakson also told the group, which included members of Forsyth’s four other Rotary clubs, that there has been progress in regards to tax laws.
“At 2:30 in the morning on New Year’s Day … the U.S. Senate reformed tax laws in America for average taxpayers, preserved the tax rate for 99.1 percent of the American people … for nine-tenths of 1 percent, they did go up,” he said.
Other moves made that day included fixing the investment in the FICA for Social Security and equalizing the tax per capital gains and dividends.
According to Isakson, it was “critically important to see so taxes did not go to 39.6 percent in an environment where interest rates are so low.”
“And on top of everything else,” he noted, “we fixed the estate tax once and for all.
“We permanently made the unified credit $5 million, but indexed it to inflation — $10 million to index for a couple — and fixed the tax on that amount above those amounts at 40 percent.”
Isakson said New Year’s Day was a “great day for the American people.”
“We did three things,” he said. “We made the taxes permanent, we made the future predictable, and we finally got back to doing taxation the right way so business, free enterprise and families knew what their bill was going to be and didn’t have a fiscal cliff looming at the end of the year when they went off and everybody’s taxes would go up again.”
Isakson also discussed some of the nations he believes are a threat to U.S. security, with North Korea one of the most foreboding.
“Everywhere I go, everybody laughs about North Korea. They think Kim Jong-Il was a joke and the new guy’s a real joke … but they have enough plutonium to make six nuclear warheads and they now have tested missiles that could take a warhead to the United States,” Isakson said.
“When you have a wild, rogue individual and when he has a nuclear weapon and the capability to deliver it, you’ve got to take him seriously.”
Iran also poses a major threat, Isakson said.
“I don’t know for sure, but I know Iran is getting close [to nuclear weapons] … and we must prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” he said. “A nuclear-armed Iran will be dangerous not only for America, but for the entire Middle East.”
The last two threats Isakson addressed were Syria, which he said will need guidance in the wake of recent civil unrest, and parts of northern Africa, which have reportedly become hot spots for terrorist training camps.
Before concluding, Isakson also fielded questions from the group on a range of topics, from Social Security and Medicaid to Internet sales tax, immigration and gun control.