By Tracy Clemons
St. Louis (KSDK) - Lawmakers have less than 40 days to make a decision before we go over so-called "fiscal cliff." That could lead to tax increases across the board for Americans.
However they vote, their decision will affect every one of us.
If we go over the fiscal cliff, tax increases and spending cuts will total more than $700 billion in the first year. The cuts would be to discretionary programs like Medicare, unemployment, and even defense.
"They're huge," says Illinois 19th District Congressman Rep. John Shimkus. "Half of it comes from the military. So contractors at Scott Air Force Base they would see an effect. Boeing in St. Louis, they'd see a major effect."
"Over a 10 year period, that's been estimated to be able to save about $300 to 400 billion," adds Missouri 1st District Congressman Rep. Lacy Clay.
Two things at the heart of this debate are higher taxes and spending on the discretionary programs that Republicans say add to the growing debt. We asked Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay and Illinois Congressman John Shimkus if they're willing to vote for a tax increase.
"For sure. That's what the president campaigned on. That was the Democrats' message throughout this campaign. Apparently the American people agreed with that threshold," says Clay.
"...I don't think we're adverse to reforms in the tax code if they're going to bring in more revenue. The question is are we going to reform the entitlement programs which are the major drivers of our national debt," Shimkus says.
Both agree that spending has to come down and revenue has to be higher and that compromise is necessary.
"We're going to have to look at the full package. There'll be some revenue raisers. There'll be hopefully some entitlement reforms and each member will have to decide is that a good enough deal for me to vote. Or do we vote no and bring in all these discretionary cuts," says Shimkus.
NewsChannel 5 reached out to all the congressmen in our viewing area.
Congressman Jerry Costello from Illinois 12th District told NewsChannel 5 via telephone that he expects there will be a short term solution that gets us into next year, and that work will continue toward a long-term plan.
We have an easy-to-follow graphic that breaks down the effects of going over the fiscal cliff. Click here to see the explainer.