• Lawmakers continue talks over Fiscal Cliff

    By: WSBTV.com web staff


    WASHINGTON - The deal in the works to minimize the damage from falling off the fiscal cliff may be falling apart.

    House Republicans are deciding whether they will support the compromise legislation, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is opposing it.

    The senate approved the deal early Tuesday morning.

    The bill would prevent middle-class taxes from going up, but it would raise taxes on higher incomes.

    Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane spent the day Tuesday going through the 150-page bill and getting reaction from Georgia lawmakers.

    If the U.S. House signs off on the bill Tuesday night, it's poised to become law, averting a huge tax hike on all Americans

    But the bill is wildly controversial and could be disintegrating because of its impact on the deficit.

    "I don't think there's anyone in Georgia who wants me to trade away good policy for America because the Senate has run us up against this deadline," said Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville.

    "We've got something here and (it) doesn't please everyone. All the Democrats won't support it. All the Republicans won't support it. But we've got enough," said Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta.

    What's hanging in the balance? A tax hike that would strip thousands of dollars out of your paycheck each year.

    Also in the balance is an extension of something called a "Federal Farm Bill," which, if not approved, could force you to eventually pay more for a gallon of milk.

    MacFarlane dug through this legislation and found other interesting nuggets, including a tax deduction for teachers who buy their own school supplies, a deduction for drivers of alternative fuel cars and dozens of obscure things.

    Also included are tax breaks for companies that invest in mine safety equipment and an extension of a federal diabetes program for Native Americans.

    Technically, America plunged off the fiscal cliff when the ball dropped in Times Square at midnight.

    Outside the Capitol, people expressed their frustration at both parties for failure to pass the bill on time.

    "They are a bunch of Americans sitting up there trying to maintain their wealth while everybody else is out here struggling," tourist Wayne Amir told MacFarlane.


    Fiscal cliff impacting unemployment

    For hundreds of Georgia families, no deal on the fiscal cliff means the immediate end to emergency unemployment benefits. The emergency compensation was established in 2008 to help the long-term unemployed.

    As the Georgia Department of Labor explains it on their website, Emergency Unemployment Compensation ends this week unless Congress acts.

    Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh reached out to viewers via social media to find those losing their benefits.

    The viewers she spoke with Tuesday said they feel like Congress has forgotten about them.

    "I'm still paying on school loans that are $30,000 and I can't even find a job in the field," said Kathryn May of Covington.

    The 22-year-old medical assistant was laid off six months ago and said the job search has been tough.

    "They'll take a look at my resume or they're not hiring at the moment, (say), 'Check back after the first of the year,'" May said.

    May said unemployment has helped her get by. But, the expectant mother could soon lose that too.

    May said it will be a nightmare for her family if Congress doesn't take action.

    Since November, May has been receiving EUC, which was established at the peak of the recession in 2008 to help those struggling to find a new job, for an extended period of time.

    Last month, an estimated two million unemployed Americans received notice that without a deal on the fiscal cliff, the emergency benefit would end immediately.

    "The last payable week of the EUC is the week ending Dec. 29, 2012," said Ronda Miller, of Norcross, as she read from the letter she received from the Georgia Department of Labor last month.

    Miller said she's been job searching for more than a year.

    "You work all your life and when you actually need help from the government, you can't get it," Miller said.

    Now the job seekers are closely following every development of the fiscal cliff talks. They wonder if Washington considers how political battles impact their fight to provide for their families.

    "I work hard. I paid my money into it, and its money that I need to survive on," May said.

    Both of the women still have a balance of benefits they could collect based on what they paid in when they were working.

    But without an agreement in Congress, that's money they can't touch.



    Teachers take hit as lawmakers try to deal with fiscal cliff

    Briarlake Elementary School special education teacher Whitney Blackmore already spends well over the $250 on school supplies she's allowed to deduct from her taxes each year.

    "I spend well over $500 a year out of my own pocket," Blackmore told Channel 2's Shae Rozzi. "From pencils to paper to activity centers to incentives to organizing stuff for my classroom, you name it and I have to buy it for myself."

    She learned through Channel 2 Action News that the American Taxpayer Relief Act legislation to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff includes doing away with the tax exemption for teachers.

    "I don't think people are aware that we don't even get pencils or paper for our classroom when we start each year," Blackmore said.

    She told Rozzi she feels the move by Congress to take away that exemption is like kicking teachers when they're already down.

    "We've been taking furlough days, we've been taking cuts every year and it's just one more thing, so it's very discouraging," Blackmore said.

    Georgia PTA President Donna Kosicki told Rozzi that the move by lawmakers speaks to inadequate funding for education.

    While the wording in the legislation is aimed at teachers, Kosicki told Rozzi that the community as a whole will have to help.

    "It's time for administrators, parents and the community to sit down and communicate how is this going to impact us at our school and how is this going to impact us in the classroom," Kosicki said.

    Blackmore believes parents will see items added to already long school supplies lists.

    "We've taken so many hits in teaching, I would just ask that they start focusing on the children and what's important in the education of children," Blackmore said.


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