By CHRIS BLANK
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A group led by current and former Missouri officials called Monday for a bipartisan effort to address the national debt.
Former Republican U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, Democratic former Gov. Bob Holden, Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and Democratic state Treasurer Clint Zweifel kicked off the state's version of Campaign to Fix the Debt at the state Capitol and said elected leaders in Washington need to find practical solutions to address the budget and national debt.
"We've kicked the can down the road for far too long at the federal level. We need to get serious about finding a solution," said Holden, who served one term as governor.
Bond, who spent four terms in the U.S. Senate and two terms as governor, said there are problems on both the spending and revenue sides of the equation. He said everything should be on the table for discussion and called the current national debt a crisis.
"It's in the best interest of our children today, who will be faced with crushing debt, to workers who can't find a job and for the country we will leave for our grandchildren if we get together today and solve the national debt problem," Bond said.
The national debt now stands at more than $16 trillion. In addition, President Barack Obama and congressional leaders face a Jan. 1 deadline to avoid a series of tax increases and spending cuts that have been tagged as the "fiscal cliff" and could hamper the economy if enacted.
Zweifel estimated the increases and cuts could cost 40,000 jobs in Missouri. He said Missouri fifth-graders can complete the math needed to fix the budget problem but that the politics to enact a resolution can be hard.
Kinder said federal officials could learn from Missouri officials about how to work together and make difficult budget decisions.
The Missouri organization is part of the national Campaign to Fix the Debt that counts a membership of more than 300,000 business leaders, current and former elected officials and others. It was founded by Democrat Erskine Bowles and former Republican Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, who were the co-chairmen of a deficit commission.