Interstate Battles Over Budget Cuts Await Congress After Election

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., is bracing for a budgeting battle when Congress reconvenes to grapple with hard decisions to avoid and deconstruct the fiscal cliff confronting America.

"Our state for years and years has been a net recipient of federal dollars. Arkansas gets more back in federal spending than we pay in [federal] taxes," Pryor said. "As the pie shrinks, does Arkansas get killed in the process? And if we're not careful, the answer to this is going to be, yes.

"We will lose on a lot of those federal formulas that are going to be proposed because they are going to be population-based, and that doesn't tell the whole story."

The senior senator from Arkansas believes a short-term fix is in the offing after the Nov. 6 general election, and he isn't confident that any meaningful spending cuts and action will occur this year.

"There is always a chance for some homerun ball to get hit after the election and before the new Congress comes in," Pryor said. "I just don't think that's likely.

"It's really hard to do everything you need to do to completely avoid the fiscal cliff. I think what you'll see is some sort of agreement that gets us through six months or a year."

Cutting entitlements and discretionary spending and reforming the tax code are the three areas that will make the most difference in the effort to whittle down the gap between revenue and spending, he said. The federal budget deficit has topped $1 trillion for each of the past four years and its accumulated debt is now above $16 trillion.

"We have to do entitlement reform," Pryor said. "People talk about Medicare and Social Security. Those are the Big Two and the highest profile, but there are dozens of entitlements, and we need to get into all of that. ...

"We need to send a signal to the markets and the business community that we can handle our big problems. It will help our economy. It will get a lot of capital off the sidelines."