The voices of Tax Policy Center's researchers and staff
The “doc fix” passes the House. The House overwhelmingly approved the Medicare “doc fix” to replace automatic payment cuts (that Congress has delayed every year since 2003) with a temporary 0.5 percent annual hike in physician reimbursements. But the bipartisan deal, which CBO figures would add $141 billion to the deficit over 10 years, is likely to be far more costly in the long run and may do little to improve health care quality for seniors, says TPC’s Howard Gleckman.
But will it get a quick OK from the Senate? Both the doc fix and a proposed repeal of the estate tax are likely to get consideration in the Senate’s “vote-a-rama” drama. Yesterday, the Senate began voting on over 600 budget amendments, including repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Tax Analysts reports that Finance panel member John Thune asked the Senate to consider his version of a House Ways & Means bill to repeal the estate tax, and that a budget amendment would provide a deficit-neutral reserve fund to cover its $250 billion cost. As part of its annual budget process, the Senate considers hundreds of bills with little or no debate. The vast majority fail or are withdrawn.
Idaho’s GOP legislators want big tax changes. Among them, they’d lower the top income tax rate from 7.4 percent to 6.7 percent, eliminate the 6 percent sales tax on groceries, and raise the state’s 25-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax by 7 cents. Should all the changes go into full effect by 2017, Idaho would have $50 million less in general fund revenue, but $65 million more in road money. House Minority Leader John Rusche said of the plans: “It’s a shell game.”
But Maryland’s new GOP Governor Larry Hogan has a Democratic ally for tax relief. State Senate President Mike Miller says he’ll work with the governor on some tax relief proposals, including a deal that would roll back a recent gasoline tax increase. Miller said the Senate would also try to advance a version of Hogan’s plan to give a small tax break to small businesses.
With under two weeks of campaigning left, Chicago mayoral challenger Chuy Garcia shares his tax ideas. He proposes a graduated state income tax to fund the city’s schools and an expanded sales tax on services to fund the hiring of 1,000 police officers. Trouble is, both need approval from the state legislature, and the graduated income tax (that would replace the current flat rate levy) requires a state constitutional amendment. The run-off between Garcia and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is on April 7. Who knows what else they’ll promise before then.
And now, for something completely different. Unlike GOP presidential hopefuls, GOP Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan is pushing for a tax increase to invest in infrastructure, schools, and localities before 2016. And not just any increase: It would be the largest in 50 years, starting with a sales tax hike from 6 to 7 percent that voters must approve in May. If it passes, gasoline and vehicle registration taxes will rise and Michigan will provide a tax credit to low-wage earners. Snyder told the Associated Press: “You do the math, and this is the right thing to do.” He has not ruled out running in 2016.
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