Year ends with ‘cliff’ hanger in Washington

USDA specialist Barbara Ross, left, is all grins after she marked the 2003 ceremonial check ‘paid in full’ in February at a note-burning ceremony at Ray County Library. Library Board, Inc. member John Letzig holds the check. The library paid off its 30-year loan 21 years early, saving the library $363,000 in interest. (File photo)

By Richmond News Staff

The year ends with a political cliff hanger as Congress works out a deal before automatic tax hikes and budget cuts begin.

If nothing gets done before midnight tonight, the expiration of the Bush administration’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts would take effect, adding $500 billion in tax increases. Analysts say it would cost the average American around $2,000. Deep automatic cuts to more than 1,000 programs, including military and Medicare cuts, would also take hold.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said on Sunday’s talk show, “State of the Union,” she expects Congress will vote to extend tax cuts for incomes below $250,000 – perhaps below $400,000 – before the deadline, saying it would be “horrific” to let it lapse during “this legislative session that already has reached historic proportions of failure.” Snowe chose not to run for re-election and is on her way out of office.

On Sunday, leaders in both parties on the House and Senate Agriculture committees have agreed to a one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill that expired in October, one that would avert doubling of milk prices next month. Dairy subsidies expire today. The deal still has to be approved by both the House and Senate.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has added pressure recently, warning a failure to pass a new law could send the healthy farm economy into turmoil and boost uncertainty for farmers and ranchers.

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Ray County’s landscape changed in 2012 with losses of an incorporated village and a longstanding school district. Here are some of 2012 top local news stories:


In an April 3 election, only five votes separated Stet R-XV School Board’s proposed annexation plan or a default option of having the state come in to divide the district in the April 3. Stet school residents from Ray County gave the measure a slim margin in favor of approval, while Carroll County Stet school residents defeated the measure. The final count was 128 for annexation to 123 against.

The vote mirrors the fractured lines of an annexation map that was drawn in December by the board, particularly with seven sections of land in and around the Stet school area in Ray County. When surveys were counted in last year, results showed a majority in that area voted for Norborne School District as their first or second choice. The approved map used the county lines of Ray and Carroll as the dividing line, placing those affected residents in the Hardin-Central School District next year.

“It’s been exhausting,” said Russ Couch, president of the board after the election. “There’s a lot of good people on each side of this contentious, heartfelt issue. Hopefully, we’ll heal.”

The school ceased operations June 1.




Washington isn’t the only town in America that was politically entrenched to a point of paralysis. Rancor and personal, public explosions were something of a staple at Rayville Board of Trustees meetings during 2011, and ending in January 2012 when two Rayville board members, James Ketchum and Tom McConnell, resigned. A three-member quorum handled basic necessities until voters decided the fate of the village.

Residents of Rayville voted in April to officially dissolve its village by a 67-percent margin. The measure needed at least 60 percent of the vote. The village of 223 reverted to the county.


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