MILTON - U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte told a crowd in Milton Friday she believes the solution to the nation's debt crisis begins with working together, passing a budget and stopping overspending.
About 100 area residents joined local students at Nute Middle-High School to hear Ayotte provide an update on the state of the fiscal crisis and ask a few questions. Junior Jessica McCassie, 17, of Milton, thought it was "really cool" to see a U.S. senator visit such a small school. She said she doesn't understand politics too well, but she was happy Ayotte provided a glimpse into the process.
"I like how she wants to cut the deficit," McCassie said. "I'm glad she wants to take care of it (the financial crisis) rather than let the numbers keep rising."
Seventh-graders Tiffany McManus, 12, and Anna Lissa, 13, were hopeful after hearing Ayotte's update and how she felt on other issues - from gay marriage to why she wanted to be a senator.
"I hope she fixes everything," McManus said, adding her family lost their home last year and had to relocate to Milton.
Ayotte said she was glad students got a chance to hear about the fact the nation spent $3.54 trillion, but only collected $2.45 trillion in revenues in 2012, which added to the country's $16.4 trillion debt.
"We need to solve it so we don't pass it on to you," Ayotte said, adding the country has been consistently borrowing and overspending for the past five years.
Ayotte said the gross debt is equal to the Gross Domestic Product - the amount of all of the products which are produced and sold in the country during a year. She added 60 percent of federal expenses are "mandatory spending" programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and debt payments.
"The growth we see in some of the programs will eventually consume all the dollars we're making," Ayotte said, adding experts predict Medicare and Social Security to be insolvent by 2024 and 2033, respectively.
"I like to call the debt a bi-partisan problem," Ayotte said, adding it will take both sides - Democrats and Republicans -working together to solve the issue.
Ayotte said she's found 45 fellow Senators - on both sides of the aisle - who are working together on these issues, even if they don't agree on everything.
She said she believes Congress should start by passing a budget. The government added $5.2 trillion to the debt in the past 3½ years, she said.
"If we don't have a responsible budget, we'll never get a handle on our debt," Ayotte said, adding about 1½ years ago she co-sponsored the "no budget, no pay" bill which - if enacted - would encourage legislators to act.
"Congress shouldn't get paid if we don't have a budget," Ayotte said, adding the current fiscal cliff the nation is facing is a symptom of the overall problem.
Ayotte said she's discouraged the legislature and the president have not reached a compromise yet, especially since $607 billion in automatic annual tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts will take effect Jan. 1.
"We can do this - we need to make hard choices through budgeting," Ayotte said, adding officials should also reduce corporate taxes.
Ayotte is scheduled to meet Coos County residents at the Pittsburg Fire and Rescue Station, at 1684 North Main St., Friday at noon.