WASHINGTON — Standing near the front of the audience, Alice Click got the chance to shake President Bush’s hand.
“Mr. President, West Virginia supports you. We want tax cuts, and we want jobs,” the conservative activist says she told Bush.
Bush wants tax cuts, too, and on Friday, Congress moved a step closer to passing its second round of tax breaks in as many years.
But the final tax package is likely not to be nearly as broad as the $726 billion measure originally proposed by Bush. The House Friday voted along party lines for a $550 billion bill that does not contain one of the president’s top priorities — eliminating the tax on stock dividends. Instead, the measure reduces the tax rate on dividends and on capital gains.
Legislation approved late Thursday by the tax bill-writing Senate Finance Committee is even further off the Bush mark. The Senate measure reduces, but does not eliminate, the dividend tax, and actually raises some taxes on Americans living abroad to pay for the $421 billion bill.
Even the scaled-back measure left Senate Democrats unhappy. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the No. 2 Democrat on the panel, told reporters Friday he would continue to fight for expanded aid to the states.
The Finance Committee bill, which could be voted on next week, contains $20 billion to help financially floundering states. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wants to increase the amount to $30 billion. Under a Rockefeller proposal, narrowly defeated Thursday, West Virginia would receive $192 million for Medicaid and other social services.
“States can’t print money. States can’t fight back,” Rockefeller said. “They have two choices. They can cut services or raise taxes.”
The 220-203 House vote Friday afternoon was almost strictly partisan. Republican Shelley Moore Capito voted for the measure, while West Virginia Democrats Nick Joe Rahall and Alan Mollohan opposed it.
“There are two things wrong with these tax cuts: We can’t afford them, and they don’t help the people who need help the most,” Mollohan said.
Rahall said, “We have a lot of needs in our communities. We should be funding miners’ health care and the Appalachian Regional Commission..”
Aside from the dividend tax break, the House bill reduces income tax rates, boosts the child tax credit and eliminates the tax penalty on married couples. It also quadruples the $25,000 small businesses currently can expense for equipment purchases.
“The bottom line is, is this going to create and stimulate jobs,” Capito said.