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Washington • Rep. Jason Chaffetz says he will vote against a deal to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts because Democrats have weighed down the bill with extraneous spending for pet projects.
Chaffetz, who said last week he initially backed the framework of the plan to continue the tax breaks for two more years, says he would back a bill that keeps tax rates the same but objects to what he says is an extra $300 billion in subsidies, unemployment insurance extensions and other tax breaks added to the bill to attract votes.
"Literally, you look through there, and this is what's so infuriating, there's an extension of tax benefits for race tracks, there's one for rum producers in Puerto Rico, a benefit for broadcasters, ethanol subsidies this is stuff that would never pass by itself," Chaffetz said.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Utah's two senators, Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch, back the deal pitched by President Barack Obama to extend the tax rates through 2012. Rep. Rob Bishop's office says the Utah Republican supports renewing the tax cuts but hasn't made a final decision on whether he'll back this package.
Some 71 percent of the $857 billion bill is an extension of those individual tax cuts, while business credits make up 6 percent, an extension of unemployment insurance another 7 percent and new temporary tax measures, including a payroll tax credit, comprise 15.5 percent.
Hatch and Bennett voted on Monday to end debate and move forward on the tax bill.
The provisions that Chaffetz cites an extension of the rum excise tax and benefits for motorsports race tracks, ethanol and TV and film productions actually make up about $5.25 billion, or just a little more than one-half of one percent of the total bill, according to numbers from the Joint Committee on Taxation.
Hatch says the bill includes tax relief for thousands of Utahns, including a tweak to the Alternative Minimum Tax that would benefit more than 150,000 Utah families and block higher tax rates for scores of small businesses in the state.
"Is this bill perfect? Absolutely not," Hatch said. "But I've always pledged to the people of Utah that I would fight any tax increase that gives Washington more money to spend. Opposing this bill is tantamount to supporting a massive tax increase that threatens our economic future."
Chaffetz says he can't justify adding to the national debt for more "favoritism" that already riddles the tax code, and he sees the items added to the tax cut deal as another stimulus package for the White House.
"The president would never be able to pass a $300 billion stimulus, but dress it up under the guise of extending the Bush tax cuts and it's OK," Chaffetz said.
He said he was jumping out on the issue before many of his conservative colleagues but expected more to follow. He says if Congress doesn't pass the tax cut deal, when Republicans run the House in January they would push immediately to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts in a stand-alone bill.
Tax cut deal is popular
69 percent • Americans who support the overall package
17 percent • opposed
54 percent • Support provision extending tax cuts for all income levels
72 percent • Support provision funding an additional 12 months of jobless benefits
39 percent • Support provision cutting Social Security payroll tax next year
52 percent • Support provision increasing inheritance tax exemption to $5 million
Source: Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted Dec. 9-12 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. Margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.