December 9, 2010

Reps. Michaud, Pingree lash out on Obama-GOP tax deal

By Rebekah Metzler rmetzler@mainetoday.com
MaineToday Media State House Writer

Democratic U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree on Wednesday criticized a compromise on tax cuts recently proposed by President Barack Obama.

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U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud

Staff file photo by Gregory Rec

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U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The measure would extend contentious Bush-era tax cuts — including those for the wealthiest Americans — for another two years.

Obama had initially opposed extending of these cuts, which sunset Dec. 31; after negotiating with Senate Republicans, however, the president agreed to continue the cuts in exchange for an extension of jobless benefits. The proposed package also includes a payroll tax cut and continues cuts in the estate tax and other cuts to businesses to encourage investment.

Pingree likened the deal to a fiscal hostage-taking.

"This deal is like a ransom note — Republicans are demanding that we fork over billions of dollars to the richest 3 percent in exchange for extending vital unemployment benefits and tax cuts for families that are struggling to make ends meet," said Pingree, who represents Maine's 1st Congressional District. "We shouldn't cave in to their demands."

Pingree said she supports maintaining the tax cuts only for individuals earning less than $250,000 and for extending jobless benefits.

"I can't in good conscience vote to give millionaires and billionaires a big tax break," she said. "Tax cuts for the rich do very little to help grow the economy and add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit."

Michaud, who represents Maine's 2nd District, also supports tax cuts for those earning less that $250,000, but did not say on whether he supports Obama's proposal. He blamed Democrats and Republicans alike for being fiscally irresponsible with this proposal.

"Republican leaders have made tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans their priority and to do it they are willing to add billions to our national debt, which would need to be financed by future generations and bankrolled by China; these are the same politicians that constantly highlight our mounting debt as a crisis," he said in a statement. "These actions are hypocritical and represent the worst of Washington."

Maine's Republican U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have said they support extending the tax cuts.

"I am encouraged by the progress represented by this framework for agreement, to prevent any tax increases on middle-class Americans as well as on the small business owners who contribute 50 percent of all of the tax revenue collected from the top two individual tax rates," Snowe has said.

Snowe voted in 2001 in support of the original Bush tax cuts but against the 2003 cuts, because she did not think they were sufficiently paid for.

Collins voted for the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.

"Some argue that Americans in the higher tax brackets should not be protected from this tax increase," Collins said during a floor speech last week. "But that argument for higher taxes come January 1st ignores the fact that a tax increase on top earners is a tax increase on small businesses and thus, a tax on jobs, at a time when we should be doing everything possible to stimulate the creation of more jobs."

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