Portman wants tax reform for "fiscal cliff"

CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio's Republican senator sees tax reforms, not letting taxes go up, as the way to ease the nation's fiscal crunch.

Rob Portman said Thursday he thinks higher tax rates now for any group would be a mistake. But he says tax changes could be part of a plan that adds revenue while reducing federal spending.

"I don't believe that it's smart to raise taxes right now, particularly the way the president wants to do it, which is on top of a terribly inefficient and antiquated tax code," Portman said.

Congress and President Barack Obama's administration are trying to avoid a year-end "fiscal cliff" that would see tax cuts expire while spending cuts kick in. Some GOP colleagues have suggested recently they would back off anti-tax pledges that they, like Portman and many others, have made.

Portman said Thursday that the immediate focus is on heading off the impending jump in taxes.

"Would I be willing as part of tax reform, assuming we can stop these huge tax increases, to see some more revenue? It depends," Portman said.

He was on the congressional deficit "supercommittee" last year that tried to come up with a fix for the fiscal crisis and said he supports "pro-growth" tax reforms with curbs on "unsustainable" hikes and with spending cutbacks. Some Democrats have rejected suggestions that closing tax loopholes and ending deductions would be enough to balance the budget.

Ohio's Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who was re-elected to a second term this month, thinks the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes, and he has expressed wariness about proposed changes in Social Security and Medicare programs.

Portman, who doesn't face re-election until 2016, said now is the time to work out a comprehensive fiscal plan.

"We should use this fiscal crisis on our doorstep as a way to deal with the underlying problems," Portman said.

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