OPINION

Work together to solve national debt

A flock of birds passes by overhead as the sun rises over the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, October 18, 2013. U.S. lawmakers launched an effort to resolve budget differences in a less confrontational fashion on Thursday as Washington picked up the pieces from a political crisis and 16-day government shutdown that has slowed the economy and undermined the country's international standing.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS ANIMALS)
A flock of birds passes by overhead as the sun rises over the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, October 18, 2013. U.S. lawmakers launched an effort to resolve budget differences in a less confrontational fashion on Thursday as Washington picked up the pieces from a political crisis and 16-day government shutdown that has slowed the economy and undermined the country's international standing. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS ANIMALS)
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At times it can seem like there is nothing Democrats and Republicans can agree on. That is why, when opportunities arise for bipartisan solutions to important issues, as state legislators we grab them. Putting the country on a more responsible fiscal path is one such opportunity that we have decided we can address together.

Currently, the United States’ debt stands at more than $18 trillion — and rising daily. Interest on the debt is the fastest growing category of federal spending. By the time the next president takes office, the federal government will spend $331 billion on interest payments. As a result, less funding is available to invest in education, transportation, medical research and other government programs important to the future.

The largest drivers of the debt include an aging population that is leaving the work force, paying less in taxes and starting to draw Social Security and Medicare benefits. Other factors include rising health care costs; interest costs, which will only get larger once interest rates return to normal; and an inefficient tax system riddled with special provisions favoring some individuals and businesses over others. Addressing these challenges will require legislators and the administration to reach across traditional party divides to take action.

We cannot mortgage our children’s futures, and although the situation looks grim, there are solutions.

We have both joined with the First Budget campaign to use Iowa’s unique position to advocate directly to national leaders for sound fiscal policies. Our state’s first-in-the-nation status allows Iowans the distinct privilege of vetting presidential candidates and helping to shape national campaign priorities.

As voters and representatives of the First Budget campaign, we will be asking each presidential candidate who comes to the state what he or she plans to do to address our federal debt. We need candidates who are committed to bold, bipartisan solutions.

The federal debt is a large and complex problem, and only plans that both increase revenue and reform spending will be viable. So we will urge candidates to focus on national priorities rather than narrow, partisan talking points.

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Bipartisan action is not a pipe dream. We both know firsthand that solving our policy problems is best done when we work together as Iowans, rather than as Democrats or Republicans. We are asking all presidential candidates to think seriously about the federal debt and to offer workable plans to get it under control. And we urge Iowans who are concerned about our country’s fiscal path to visit www.firstbudget.org to learn more and take action.

• Rep. Ken Rizer (R-Cedar Rapids) and Rep. Dan Kelley (D-Newton) serve in the Iowa Legislature. Comments: Ken.rizer@legis.iowa.gov; Dankelley@legis.iowa.gov

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