Wednesday January 2, 2013

ZEKE WRIGHT Story Body:

ZEKE WRIGHT Story Body:

ZEKE WRIGHT

BENNINGTON -- Hours after the deadline, Washington lawmakers in the Senate tried to kick the can past the "fiscal cliff" with passage early Tuesday morning of a measure that would prevent a tax rate increase for most Americans but defer spending cuts to the military and domestic programs.

The stop-gap agreement fell short of an earlier envisioned grand bargain and ran into opposition from House Republicans, who late Tuesday indicated they would amend the bill to incorporate spending cuts and send it back to the Senate.

Vermont Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders both voted in favor of the measure that passed 89-8 in the Senate early New Years Day. Previously calling the cliff a "man-made disaster," Leahy, now president pro tempore of the Senate after succeeding the late Daniel Inouye, was the presiding officer during the vote.

In a television interview Sunday, Sanders said the deficit reduction debate boiled down to asking the wealthiest people and largest corporations to help with the nation's debt. In the greater economic context, "we have a middle class that is in significant decline while the wealthiest people are doing phenomenally well," Sanders told MSNBC.

On a cable news program Tuesday morning, Vermont Rep. Peter Welch said he was undecided before a vote in the House, but said there was "some benefit" to a bill that avoided the cliff and received bipartisan support.


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"But as a fiscal package going forward to stabilize this country, (this deal) falls well short," Welch continued.

There was some good news Jan. 1 for Vermont's lowest paid workers. Effective in the new year, the state's minimum wage increased 14 cents an hour, to $8.60 per hour. The minimum wage for workers in places like hotels and restaurants, who rely on tips as a significant part of their income, increased from $4.10 to $4.17. The increase is according to state law that pegs annual minimum wage increases to either 5 percent or matches the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. Such increases also often trigger raises for workers making just above the minimum wage, according to the Associated Press.