Something for All in Tax Cut Bill
Aug. 04, 1999
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Republicans' $792 billion tax cut proposal offers something for nearly everyone, but the biggest breaks would not happen until well into the next century, officials said Wednesday.
For example, the big-ticket item in the 10-year package would trim all income tax rates by 1 percentage point: first, the bottom 15 percent rate would drop to 14 percent by 2003, followed by all the others in 2006.
Similarly, repeal of the estate tax would take place in small increments beginning in 2003, with the full impact delayed until 2009. Relief from the ``marriage penalty'' that hits many two-income couples would phase in between 2001 and 2008.
In fact, the tax cut for 2000 would total only $5.2 billion and only $156.2 billion over its first five years, said Lindy Paull, staff director for the Joint Committee on Taxation, which makes official tax estimates for Congress.
The package's tax cuts are phased in because the non-Social Security surplus _ which the GOP would use to finance the tax reductions _ is projected to grow from almost nothing next year to $178 billion in 2009.
That did not stop Republicans from touting the bill Wednesday as an ideal way eventually to return surplus dollars to hard-pressed taxpayers.
``This tax relief bill will help individuals and families at all income levels met real needs,'' said Sen. William Roth, R-Del., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
The House planned to vote on the bill Thursday, followed by the Senate by Friday at the latest. President Clinton, once again pledging a veto, said the GOP package is ``risky and plainly wrong'' because it jeopardizes Social Security and Medicare, national debt reduction and spending for key programs such as defense and education.
Although Clinton has said he would sign a modest tax cut of perhaps $300 billion, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said in an interview that he sees no signs of compromise with the White House.
``I don't see any indication that he's serious at all,'' said Lott, R-Miss. ``I'm hopeful, because I want it very badly. But the president has shown no inclination to engage.''
Despite this partisan gridlock, Republicans made sure their tax bill was chock full of items sure to please their many constituencies, ranging from pro-family conservative groups to international and domestic business.
The Family Research Council, for example, joined GOP lawmakers at a Capitol Hill news conference to hail the marriage penalty provisions, which have been beefed up from an original House measure that caused some grumbling among conservatives.
``These members worked to stop the marriage tax,'' said Janet Parshall, spokeswoman for the group. ``They stood up to protect marriage when many were not listening.''
The bill contains tax breaks for education, long-term health care and health insurance premiums, repeals the alternative minumim tax for individuals and cuts top capital gains tax rates for most taxpayers from 20 percent to 18 percent retroactive to Jan. 1, 1999.
It also has some special targets: a repeal of a 10 percent excise tax on certain kinds of fishing tackle boxes; an increase in tax breaks for reforestation expenses incurred by timber companies; breaks for purchasers of nuclear plants aimed at the costs of cleaning up reactor sites; and a credit for electricity produced from poultry waste.
The bill also would extend the research and development tax credit sought by high-tech businesses by five years, instead of the permanent extension they want. That brought a retort from Democrats, who are competing fiercely for support from those same companies and sought a permanent extension in their tax plan.
``We listened and we delivered in our plan,'' said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. ``The Republicans have done nothing more than talk.''