2 GOP lawmakers: Raise top earners' taxes

Nov. 30, 2011 at 4:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- A Republican plan to offset an extension of a U.S. payroll tax cut could involve raising taxes on high-income people, two Republican senators said.

The party's plan to cover revenue lost by extending a 2 percent cut in the amount of money employees pay for Social Security taxes could involve a small tax increase for some high-income people who meet certain criteria, Senate Finance Committee member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said Tuesday.

His remarks, cited by The New York Times, offered no further details, and his press office did not immediately respond to a United Press International inquiry late Tuesday night.

Most Republican lawmakers signed a "Taxpayer Protection Pledge," promoted by conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist, promising never, under any circumstances, to support a tax increase.

Senate Appropriations Committee member Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she supported the "millionaires surtax" but wanted to exempt small businesses from increased taxes.

"I don't think we should be imposing additional taxes on working families at a time when the economy is so fragile," she said Tuesday in support of extending the payroll tax cut.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday Republicans would propose a bill this week to extend the payroll tax cut, but it would do it in a way that would not make up for the lost revenue by surcharging million-dollar incomes, which Democrats proposed.

"At the end of the day, there's a lot of sentiment in our conference, clearly a majority sentiment, for continuing the payroll tax relief that we enacted a year ago in these tough times," he said at a news conference. "But we believe in these tough times we ought to pay for it."

He wouldn't provide details of the GOP plan, but predicted Congress would extend the tax cut, which expires Dec. 31.

The Democrats' bill would not simply extend the tax cut but also expand it.

Payroll taxes, cut last year to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent, would be lowered further to 3.1 percent, providing middle-class families with as much as $1,500 more in their paychecks next year, Democrats said.

The bill would also partially extend the tax break to employers, a move intended to encourage hiring.

The price tag of the bill is about $265 billion, Democratic aides said.

Democrats proposed paying for it in part with a 3.25 percent surtax on annual income over $1 million.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pointed to polls showing most Republican voters say wealthy Americans should increase how much taxes they pay.

"The only place in America that people don't want a fair system is Republicans here in the Senate," Reid said at a news conference Tuesday. "Republicans outside this Capitol think the rich should bear some of the burdens we have in our country today."

Democrats pointed out that Republicans have long insisted tax cuts keep money in the hands of Americans who then funnel it back into the economy, negating the need to offset the revenue loss.

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