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Bush Budget Sets Stage For Battle on Tax Cuts

  Tax  -   POSTED: 2008/02/05 14:28

President Bush's tax-and-spending blueprint calls for making 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent but assumes that tens of millions of taxpayers eventually will be paying higher alternative minimum tax rates.

Those two assumptions could affect some $1 trillion in revenues over the next five years.

The budget outline presented Monday envisions the loss of $635 billion in revenues over the next five years if Congress makes permanent those tax cuts involving capital gains, the repeal of the estate tax, breaks for married couples and those with children and individual income tax rates. Over 10 years the tax cuts — many set to expire in 2010 if Congress does not act — will cost $2 trillion.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates another $444 billion in interest payments to service that debt over 10 years.

The Democrats who now control Congress show no inclination to extend the tax cuts, arguing that they disproportionately help the rich and the money can be better spent to improve health care or reduce the federal deficit.

The president's proposals to cut out wasteful spending "are dwarfed by the more than $700 billion that would be added to the deficit over the next five years from extending his tax cuts that largely benefit the wealthiest Americans," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Republicans say that failure to extend the tax cuts would result in 116 million taxpayers seeing an average tax increase of $1,800. "We recognize that in order for this economy to grow, it's important to make the tax relief permanent," Bush said.

The budget proposal also records some $70 billion in lost revenue this year and next under the assumption that Congress will take steps to block the alternative minimum tax from hitting more middle-class taxpayers.

The AMT was enacted 40 years ago to ensure that a small number of very wealthy people can't avoid paying taxes. But the tax was never adjusted for inflation, and Congress has been forced to take stopgap measures every year to shield middle-income-level people from the tax. Legislation passed by Congress in late December kept those affected by the AMT from growing from 4 million in 2006 to 25 million in the 2007 tax year.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has estimated that it will cost $800 billion to repeal the AMT. Without that politically difficult action, Congress will have to continue to enact yearly fixes, at a cost of $313 billion over the next five years, the Congressional Budget Office says.

The budget proposal also sees revenue losses of nearly $100 billion over five years from health insurance tax incentives promoted by the White House but opposed by Democrats seeing them as threats to employer-based insurance plans.


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