EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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February 12, 2013

Tsongas, Tierney talk budget at chamber breakfast

Jobs, not spending, the most pressing problem, lawmakers say

ANDOVER — The two local representatives in Congress yesterday defended the role of government spending in the area to a group of business leaders while saying they are somewhat optimistic about a federal deficit deal given several compromises that passed in Washington this year even with significant Republican opposition.

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell, and Congressman John Tierney, D-Salem, Mass., said further deficit reduction could be accomplished with thoughtful cuts in spending and higher tax revenue through boosting rates on dividend and investment income. A scheduled automatic across-the-board slash in funding, split evenly between the military and domestic programs, would cost too many jobs, they said.

“Our most immediate problem is not spending, as (House Speaker) John Boehner would have you believe, it’s jobs,” said Tierney.

The representatives addressed a Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Wyndham Boston Andover hotel on Old River Road yesterday morning.

Both members warned that a second round of federal spending cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years — half from defense spending and half from other domestic programs excluding Medicaid, Social Security and civil and military pay — would lead to a drag on the economy and to job losses, particularly in the defense and research sectors in Massachusetts.

They said they supported some targeted cuts to spending, though they did not offer specifics, and defended the role of government spending in research, job training and community development.

“We need to deal with the debt in a way that’s sustainable, not destabilizing to the economy,” Tsongas said.

She pointed to the industrial cities in her district, from Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence locally and west to Lowell, Fitchburg, Gardner and Marlborough, where she said federal community development grants and job training programs can help those cities “find a path forward.”

Tierney said he supported a review of the Pentagon budget to reduce spending, specifically to identify weapons programs that are tested and feasible while reducing production of those that are not and to review American bases overseas. Ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also would reduce military spending.

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