PARKERSBURG - West Virginia's delegation to the House of Representatives is split on party lines on the Republican-backed bill extending the Bush-era tax cuts while a coalition of religious leaders criticized the Republican version for its impact on the poor.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved House Resolution 8, dubbed the Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act, that will prevent the expiration of the cuts and extend them beyond 2013. Republican Reps. Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley, Republicans from West Virginia, were in favor and Democrat Nick Rahall was opposed.
The bill passed 256-171 along party lines.
The legislation, among other provisions, will extend tax cuts for individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and families earning over $250,000. The version in the Democratic-controlled Senate lets those cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans, but extended them for families earning less than $250,000 and individuals earning less than $200,000.
The plan includes comprehensive tax reform, Capito said. McKinley said the Democratic plan will cost 700,000 jobs.
According to McKinley, the bill also continues the marriage penalty relief, the $1,000 child credit, a 15 percent top rate on dividends and capital gains and the estate tax at 2011 and 2012 limits, higher small business expense limits and a two-year alternative minimum tax patch covering 2012 and 2013.
However, the House budget extends tax cuts and credits for the wealthiest while cutting tax benefits for the poorest, said the Rev. Jim Wallis, president and chief executive officer of the Sojourners, one of the 60 faith-based leaders signing onto a letter to Congress.
Among the reductions are the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, he said.
"All the while, tax cuts for the wealthy are further expanded and the amount of money the richest can keep from their estate taxes continues to grow," he said in a statement. "This is an egregious contrast and a starkly immoral budget choice."
The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said the earned income and child tax credits reward work and promote social mobility. Most recipients receive the earned income credit for one to two years before moving into higher income brackets , he said.
"Almost all mainstream economists agree that the only way we can responsibly address our long-term deficits and debt is through increased tax revenues in addition to spending cuts," Beckmann said.
Many working families are struggling just to keep their heads above water, Rahall said.
" It's unconscionable to expand tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and ask middle-class households to pay for it, as the Republican leadership in Congress has proposed to do," he said.
"Plain and simple, the proposal that passed the House last night widens the income gap between the rich and poor, and will raise taxes by an average of $1,000 on 25 million American households just to give more tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans," Rahall said. "That's not fair and it's not right."