President Barack Obamas call for expiration of Bush-era tax cuts for those who make more than $250,000 will put him at odds with Republicans, to be sure, but it also highlights a contrast with congressional Democrats such as Rep. William L. Owens of Plattsburgh.
Mr. Owens says the tax cuts should expire for those earning more than $500,000 annually, though he wouldnt say how hed vote on a bill at the $250,000 threshold.
Do I think people who make less than $250,000 deserve to keep the lower taxes? Absolutely, Mr. Owens said Monday. Theyre going to be the ones who spend the money. The question is, should we do it slightly higher?
Its a question Mr. Owens wasnt prepared to answer Monday; he said hed heard only that day of Mr. Obamas call, though the tax cuts, instituted during President George W. Bushs first term, have been a subject of debate during Mr. Owenss nearly three-year tenure.
The internal Democratic Party debate, though, probably will play out more on the campaign trail than in the halls of Congress. Mr. Owens said its unlikely the issue will come up for a vote in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives; Republicans, like Mr. Owenss Nov. 6 opponent, Matthew A. Doheny, favor extending the Bush tax cuts for all income levels. Doing otherwise would hurt the economy and the small businesses that drive job growth, they say.
The National Republican Congressional Committee went on the offensive after Mr. Obamas announcement, attacking Mr. Owens in a news release.
As if things were not hard enough in the Obama-Owens economy, the president plans to burden New York small businesses with even more devastating tax hikes, said Paul Lindsay, an NRCC spokesman.
Although he hasnt supported the presidents move, Mr. Owens said the expiration of the income tax cuts at Mr. Obamas proposed level probably would not hurt the north country economy.
The $250,000 number is one that, from a practical standpoint, because it is taxable income and not gross income, actually has very little impact on people in the district, Mr. Owens said.
Citing Tax Policy Center statistics, Mr. Owens and his staffers say only about 2 percent of business owners nationally are above the $250,000 income threshold.
In his conversations with small-business owners, he said, the vast majority tell me (their taxable income is) around 100,000 bucks, which means they would not be impacted by this at all.
He said theres no evidence that income tax cuts for the wealthy help spur job growth, but he supports targeted tax cuts. For example, after voting for Mr. Obamas health care overhaul that included an excise tax on medical device manufacturers, Mr. Owens is now working to repeal the excise tax.
If theres any movement on the Bush tax cuts, Mr. Owens said, its unlikely to occur in the crucible of the 2012 presidential and congressional elections. But great pressure will be brought to bear on Congress because the tax cuts are set to expire shortly after the election.
I think whatever is going to occur, in my view, is likely to occur during the lame-duck session, Mr. Owens said.