Despite concerns, Rep. Walz votes to renew tax cuts

Published 5:30 pm Saturday, December 18, 2010

Despite Democrats’ overall skepticism towards President Barack Obama’s extension of the Bush tax cuts, Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., chose to vote for the proposal.

“I am disappointed with measures in this compromise that add to the debt and do not help grow our economy, such as tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” Walz said in a statement issued Friday. “However … I cannot in good conscience vote against tax relief for the middle class, unemployment benefits and tax incentives for renewable energy initiatives that could help create jobs in Minnesota.”

Walz said the continued tax cuts will benefit local businesses because the money saved will be spent at local businesses, putting money back into the community and hopefully stimulating the economy.

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The measure will extend tax cuts for families at every income level, renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and enact a new one-year cut in Social Security taxes that would benefit nearly every worker who earns a wage.

In a remarkable show of bipartisanship, the House gave final approval to the measure just before midnight Thursday, overcoming an attempt by Democrats who wanted to impose a higher estate tax than the one Obama agreed to.

The vote was 277-148, with each party contributing an almost identical number of votes in favor (the Democrats, 139 and the Republicans, 138).

In a rare reach across party lines, Obama negotiated the $858 billion package with Senate Republicans. The White House then spent the past 10 days persuading congressional Democrats to go along, providing a possible blueprint for the next two years, when Republicans will control the House and hold more seats in the Senate.

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., said that with unemployment hovering just under 10 percent and the deadline for avoiding a big tax hike fast approaching, lawmakers had little choice but to support the bill.

Sweeping tax cuts enacted when George W. Bush was president were scheduled to expire Jan. 1 — a little more than two weeks away. The bill extends them for two years, placing the issue squarely in the middle of the next presidential election, in 2012.

The extended tax cuts include lower rates for the rich, the middle class and the working poor, a $1,000-per-child tax credit, tax breaks for college students and lower taxes on capital gains and dividends. The bill also extends through 2011, a series of business tax breaks designed to encourage investment that expired at the end of 2009.

Workers’ Social Security taxes would be cut by nearly a third, going from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, for 2011. A worker making $50,000 in wages would save $1,000; one making $100,000 would save $2,000.

The bill’s cost, $858 billion, would be added to the deficit, a sore spot among budget hawks in both parties.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.