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Thurman: Tax cut puts cart before the horse

The veteran Democrat urged legislators to decide on a budget before issuing income tax breaks.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001

U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman isn't against an income tax cut. She is just against this income tax cut at this time.

That is what the veteran Democrat said late Thursday after the House of Representatives voted 230-198 in support of President Bush's expansive plan.

The vote largely followed party lines, with Republicans supporting it and all but 10 Democrats voicing opposition. Now the Senate must consider the bill.

"I tend to think there were very few minds that were going to be swayed by the debate," Thurman said.

The $958-billion cut would provide a $180 break for most taxpayers this year -- double that for married couples -- and more cuts through 2006. The plan would reduce all tax rates, with the top rate going from 39.6 percent to 33 percent and the bottom rate from 15 percent to 10 percent.

During a brief speech on the House floor, Thurman said the House needs to agree on a budget -- one that addresses needs in Medicare, Social Security and education, to name a few items -- before doling out tax breaks.

In other words, she said, the House should act as any responsible family would: plan first.

"I think it's time for prudence to guide us," she said later. "Both sides have agreed that there ought to be a tax cut. There is not a disagreement about that."

But not without a budget in place. Thurman even voted against a Democratic alternative that would have cut $586-billion in taxes. Again, she said, the cart was before the horse.

That plan failed to pass.

Thurman continues to support a "trigger," or mechanism to allow tax cuts that wouldn't negatively affect necessary government spending or run up debt.

"If the surplus is not there, then you couldn't proceed," Thurman said. "I felt like that was responsible."

House Republicans said the cut is just, fair and necessary to boost the economy.

Thurman remembers back to her first congressional elections, in 1992 and '94. "The biggest issue that every Republican ran against every Democrat is, "We've got to pay down the debt; we've got to balance the budget,' " Thurman said.

Thurman said she cast some difficult votes, including one to increase the federal gasoline tax, to achieve that goal. She is loathe to approve tax reductions until she is assured that the country won't head back into the red.

"I have to be concerned that I don't want to end up in the same situation in the years prior to that. I worked too hard for this," Thurman said.

- This story includes information from Times files and wires.

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