Wednesday, March 07, 2001

Labor blasts Bush tax plan

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — State and Northern Kentucky labor leaders spoke out Tuesday against President Bush's $1.6 trillion tax package and called on U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a Boone County Democrat, to vote against it this week.

        Republicans in the U.S. House are pushing for a vote on the tax package as early as Thursday. But organized labor wants at least a delay on the vote until the federal budget is passed in the spring, said Chris Sanders, secretary-treasurer of the Kentucky AFL-CIO.

[photo] Chris Sanders, secretary-treasurer of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, points to a poster showing the benefits to the heirs of Vice President Dick Cheney if the estate tax is repealed.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        Labor is also pushing for using more of the surplus to fund federal programs and spending and for targeted tax cuts that give a greater benefit to “working families,” said Wayne Whalen, president of the Northern Kentucky Labor Council, an umbrella group that represents local labor unions.

        “Working families have worked for decades to build the (budget) surplus,” said Mr. Whalen, president of the Northern Kentucky Labor Council. “And we want to make sure that it's used for something that will come back to those who worked for it.” The unions represented at Tuesday's press conference at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees headquarters included electrical workers and grocery-store employees.

        Mr. Whalen and other labor leaders said while they do favor some tax cuts, more of the surplus should be spent on education, road construction and repair, Social Security, health-care programs such as Medicaid and Medicare and paying down the national debt.

        “We are not against tax cuts,” Mr. Whalen said. “But we are against this tax cut.”

        Under the Bush tax plan, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans will receive the majority of the benefits, Jim Cole, the labor council's political director, said.

        A family of four that earns $44,000 a year will receive a tax cut ofonly $256, Mr. Sanders said.

        “That's not the tax plan we will accept,” he said.

    The bill expected to pass the U.S. House Thursday would gradually reduce the current five income tax rates — now at 15 percent, 28 percent, 31 percent, 36 percent and 39.6 percent. By 2006, the rates would decrease to 10, 15, 25 and 33 percent.
        Mr. Lucas said he is in favor of a big tax cut and paying down the national debt.

        “As I have said before, tax relief is long overdue and growing budget surpluses provide the opportunity to enact significant tax cuts while paying down the national debt. I believe tax rates need to be reduced and I hope Congress will enact a bipartisan agreement that achieves this goal,” Mr. Lucas said. Kentucky's U.S. senators — Republicans Jim Bunning of Southgate and Mitch McConnell of Louisville — have expressed support for Mr. Bush's tax plan.

        The president's plan offers “reasonable and fair tax relief to every single American who pays taxes,” Mr. Bunning said last week after Mr. Bush announced the plan in a nationally televised speech.

        “Under his plan, the average American family will pay $1,600 less in taxes” each year, Mr. Bunning said.

        But Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi said this week that the Senate will likely hold off voting on the tax cut until the budget is approved.

        “Our goal is to try to find a bill that will have total Republican support and a lot of Democrats, too,” Mr. Lott said.

        The bill expected to pass the House on Thursday would gradually reduce and shrink the current five income tax rates — now at 15 percent, 28 percent, 31 percent, 36 percent and 39.6 percent. By 2006, the rates would decrease to 10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent and 33 percent.

        The House GOP bill would create an interim 12 percent bracket retroactive to Jan. 1, that would apply to every taxpayer's first several thousand dollars of income.

        Mr. Bush has also proposed eliminating the estate tax, doubling the child-tax credit to $1,000, easing the tax penalty paid by millions of married couples, expanding charitable deductions and making the business-research tax credit permanent.

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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