June 26, 2009
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, the chief congressional advocate of taxing some employer-provided benefits to help pay for a $1 trillion overhaul of the U.S. health system, says any change should exempt perks secured in existing collective-bargaining agreements, which can be in place for as long as five years.
The exception, which could make the proposal more politically palatable to Democrats from heavily unionized states such as Michigan, is adding controversy to an already contentious debate. It would shield the 12.4 percent of American workers who belong to unions from being taxed while exposing some other middle-income workers to the levy.
“I can’t think of any other aspect of the individual income tax that treats benefits of different people differently because of who they work for,” said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington research group that often criticizes Democrats’ economic proposals. Edwards said the carve-out “smacks of political favoritism.”
Baucus is proposing to tax Americans whose health insurance is valued at a higher rate than what is offered to federal employees. About 40 percent of insured Americans have costlier benefits, and Baucus has said he is trying to set the level at which taxes would be imposed high enough so fewer people are affected.
Never let it be said that the Democrat Party doesn't listen to its paymasters.
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