Ayotte Fiscally Focused in Windham

U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte speaks with fellow former NH Attorney General Greg Walker at the New England Council luncheon.

U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte speaks with fellow former NH Attorney General Greg Walker at the New England Council luncheon.

WINDHAM – Congress may be on its two week Easter recess, but it’s been a working vacation for U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte. She addressed a luncheon gathering of the New England Council on Thursday, during which she was 100 percent focused on fiscal issues facing Congress.

For the first time in her two+ years as a Senator, the U.S. Senate just last month finally voted on a budget resolution. Democrats have the majority and their version of the budget passed the Senate, though Ayotte voted for a House version of the budget championed by Rep. Paul Ryan.

“The two sides are pretty far apart in terms of their fiscal vision for the country,” Ayotte said. She opposed the Democratic version of the budget for increasing taxes by nearly $1 trillion and not balancing within ten years. She expressed concern that the Ryan budget may have become too politicized during the last presidential campaign.

So what does a deal look like? Ayotte spoke of a grand bargain budget deal that would include entitlement reform – something she acknowledged is hard for Democrats to support – as well as addressing deficit spending. She said Social Security and Medicare both have “bankruptcy dates” on the horizon. Means testing Medicare and raising the retirement age for Social Security may be part of an ultimate deal, Ayotte said. Anyone who doesn’t support reforms is for bankruptcy, Ayotte said.

Ayotte referenced having two surviving grandparents, aged 96 and 97, to emphasize her personal commitment to reforming entitlements to ensure they are available to those who depend on the programs in the future.

“The other piece of this deal is all of you,” Ayotte said to her business-minded audience. Economic growth is needed as well. Ayotte acknowledged that many businesses are worried about the effects of sequestration and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act – which Ayotte did not refer to as “Obamacare.”

Ayotte took some credit for supporting a repeal of the medical device tax – a 2.3 percent tax on revenue, not profits, of medical manufacturers which has been part of the funding of the ACA. Ayotte noted that many Democrats who had voted for the tax as part of ACA had now reversed course. Ayotte did not mention that her New Hampshire colleague, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, was one of those senators who had been for the tax before she was against it.

Ayotte also spoke of her sponsorship of legislation to increase the number of H-1B visas available for highly skilled, highly educated immigrant workers. Several questions from the audience concerned the need for immigration reform, especially to address science and technology needs.

Author: Fergus Cullen

Fergus Cullen is a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party (2007-2008) and an editorial page columnist for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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