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Rockefeller explains tax cut numbers

March 26, 2001

Rockefeller explains tax cut numbers



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg
Photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Sen. RockefellerU.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., dissected the tax-cut plan proposed by President George W. Bush at a town hall meeting Monday.

Rockefeller told about 200 people at the Berkeley Senior Center that Bush's plan may be more costly than he has said and is based on uncertain economic projections.

He used the 90-minute meeting to discuss the issue because of its importance, he said.

"This is a very big deal, the tax cut, about where were are going in this country," he said.

Bush wants to take $1.6 trillion from a projected budget surplus of $5.6 trillion over the next 10 years and devote it to a tax cut.

Rockefeller said the actual surplus is impossible to project over 10 years and that Bush is "using the most optimistic numbers."

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Even using those numbers, the surplus does not include the need to pay for $2.9 million in Social Security and Medicare, he said. Those programs shrink the surplus to $2.7 trillion, he said.

Add to the tax-cut plan another $1 trillion in costs - including the costs of making it retroactive to Jan. 1, and the $500 billion in interest costs on the national debt that remain unpaid - and the cost is about $2.6 trillion, he said. That leaves only $100 billion for all other programs.

Rockefeller argued the tax would benefit the average West Virginian making $26,000 by $117 annually.

"The way I figure it, that's about two trips to the grocery store," Rockefeller said.

"You haven't been to the grocery store recently," said one member of the audience.

"I'm not into class warfare here," Rockefeller said as he argued the wealthiest 1 percent would receive almost half the tax breaks.

Several people said they thought those who paid the most taxes should get the same percentage tax break as everyone else

Melvin Dodson, who lives in Martinsburg and is retired, said people need the money now.

"A lot of people voted for Bush because of this tax cut," Dodson said. "Now it's 10 years down the road. Probably 50 percent of the people in this room won't be here in 10 years." Rockefeller said economists believe significant stimulation of the economy now would take $60 billion to $80 billion, while Bush's tax cut puts in a fraction of that in the early years.

Another audience member noted the eight-page, three-color handouts explaining Rockefeller's position.

"If I go to Kinko's and get a color copy it's a dollar," said Kimberly Nelson Bushman, 38, of Martinsburg. "If I do it black and white it's 8 cents. We could save a lot of money right here in this room."

Rockefeller said the color handouts were designed to make the issue as clear as possible, but Bushman continued, "It all adds up. I could be talking about aircraft carriers, but (the handout) is what's in front of us."

Paul Gibbons of Martinsburg, retired after 38 years in the military, said there is so much special-interest money going into pork-barrel projects that he doesn't trust politicians to spend any surplus.

"They can't be trusted with our tax money, period," he said. "They will only use the surplus to favor special interests and their own re-elections." Until they agree to use it for national priorities, they should just set it aside, he said.

"I think some compromise will be reached," Rockefeller said.

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