Senator Suggests New Millionaire Tax

With the Senate preparing this week to vote on competing sets of cuts to an array of federal programs, one senator is proposing a new surtax on U.S. millionaires to raise additional revenue.

As lawmakers race to find a budget solution by March 18, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will hold test votes on Democratic and Republican alternatives. Each would trim billions from federal spending, with the GOP proposal cutting more deeply.

Congress must decide on a budget both Democrats and Republicans can agree to by March 18 in order to avoid a shutdown of the federal government.

While there is widespread agreement on the need to reduce the $14 national debt and $1.6 trillion deficit, “this must include not only budget cuts, but raising revenue in a fair and economically just way,” says Sen. Bernie Sanders, the left-leaning independent from Vermont.



Sanders suggests an emergency surtax on millionaires. A 5.4 percent surtax on adjusted gross incomes over $1 million would raise as much as $50 billion a year, the senator says, citing an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll published last week showing overwhelming support for that concept.

“It would be morally wrong for the United States to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our society while asking nothing from the wealthiest,” says Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee.

Sanders also reiterated his recommendation to end federal tax breaks for major oil companies which are in the midst of posting record profits. Senate Democrats have embraced eliminating those tax breaks, but the oil industry already has begun fighting to retain them.

Sanders notes that Senate Democratic leaders already agreed to cut spending by $41 billion. The president last week signed into law a short-term continuing resolution that cut an additional $4 billion. Senate negotiators have offered additional $6.5 billion in cuts. That’s more than half of the $100 billion House Republicans have called for in terms of deficit reduction, Sanders says.

“Unfortunately, until now, virtually the entire debate in Washington has focused only on cutting federal programs,” Sanders says. “Many of the cuts being proposed will have a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our nation – including seniors, children, the sick and the poor.”

The budget bill House Republicans have approved would:

  • Cut $1.1 billion from Head Start depriving services for 218,000 children.
  • Cut $1.3 billion for Social Security delaying benefits for 500,000 Americans.
  • Slash $1.3 billion from community health centers taking primary health care from 11 million patients.
  • Reduce or eliminate Pell Grants for 9.4 million low-income college students.
  • Cut $405 million from Community Services Block Grants affecting 20 million seniors, families with children and the disabled.
  • End job training and other employment services for 8 million Americans. Sanders notes that Congress is now concerned with the deficit only after Republicans late last year insisted on extending tax breaks for the top 2 percent of Americans who now pay the lowest tax rates in decades. “It is time to ask the wealthy to start paying their fair share,” Sanders says.

    Scott Nance is the publisher of the news site The Washington Current, formerly known as On The Hill. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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