Tahoe reacts to tax cut
The votes in the Golden and Silver states varied as much as South Lake Tahoe’s reaction to the passage of President George W. Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax-cut plan Wednesday.
As a Vermont legislator threatens to break the 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate, California and Nevada lawmakers dividing Lake Tahoe split their votes on the tax relief proposal.
The 11-year plan passed by a 62-38 vote, with 12 Democrats siding with the entire Republican Senate including U.S. Sen. John Ensign of Nevada.
Ensign was unavailable for comment and opted to withhold a statement Wednesday.
Among the Democrats opting for it, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein characterized the bill as a compromise on difficult issues.
“I do not think there is a member of the Senate who would not have drafted a different bill giving different weight to different provisions, if given the opportunity,” Feinstein stated.
The bill provides marriage penalty relief, gradually repeals the estate tax, offers retirement incentives and gives families an additional child tax credit.
Bush’s original tax cut plan amounted to $1.6 trillion over 10 years, but this proposal was soon whittled down in legislative wrangling.
Bush also sought to bring the 39.6 percent bracket to 33 percent. The Senate compromised on 36 percent, with an across-the-board cut that amounts to an average of $300 a year per household.
What would visitors and locals do with an extra $300?
“I’d go and gamble,” Joe Ferreira of Rio Vista said, whipping out a stack of cards to various gambling programs around town. “We go to clubs quite a bit.”
Deanne Pollum of South Lake Tahoe shared more domestic ideas.
“I’d probably buy something for my house – to decorate,” she said outside the Rite Aid next to Albertson’s.
Her mother, Jean Dahlinger, expressed the dilemma noted by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, both of whom voted against the tax-cut proposal.
“They’re having a bad enough time paying on Social Security now. They’re going to have to get the money some place,” Dahlinger said, echoing critics’ protests.
Boxer, who supported a $900 billion tax-cut proposal that died in the legislature, contends Bush’s plan “breaks the bank.”
Along the same lines, Reid called the reconciliation bill “fiscally irresponsible” because it spends a budget surplus that may never materialize and fails to consider increasing costs associated with Social Security and Medicare, among other reasons.
“I support giving relief to taxpayers, but we want to do it fairly, and in a way that does not force the federal government to sacrifice the people’s priorities,” Reid stated.
Laury Braithwaite, a nurse at Barton Memorial Hospital, would rather see the money go to reforming health care.
Braithwaite – a Democrat – is torn between advocating a Democratic platform socially and culturally and a Republican agenda when it comes to fiscal responsibility.
“It’s a real Catch 22,” she said.
South Shore resident Chris Garden thinks a tax cut sounds like a good idea.
“Social Security and Medicare are already in jeopardy. I’m not relying on (Social Security) for my retirement,” Garden said. “If I did, I’d be a fool.”
His remedy can be summed in two words: “Real estate,” he said, smiling.
Bob Jackson, who lives in Tahoe Paradise and is currently selling a house, offered his own slant on the federal insurance program for seniors.
“In this country, Social Security is sacred. We’re never going to lose it,” he said.
This died-in-the-wool Democrat simply feels the roughly $300 will not amount to much for the average American.
Reforming the estate tax is part of the plan that appeals to Jackson.
The current tax forces families to pay the penalty upon the death of a spouse or parent. Survivors have been forced to go deeply into debt to hold on to the family farm or business. The bill lowers the tax rates, then repeals it in 2011.
Chris Baruth and Jessica Heredia are considering their family life.
Heredia, who is five months pregnant, is interested in an additional $500 child tax credit.
The couple would also like to pay off bills, buy baby clothes and work on saving for a house with the extra $300 the federal government is offering in tax relief. The two South Lake Tahoe residents are currently crammed in a one-bedroom cabin with two dogs and a child on the way.
Tao and Lisa Powell have completed their quest to expand the family. The duo, with three children between them, have decided to play with the money in their own way.
She opted to go shopping, and he wants to go gambling as his version of investment in the future.
“If I had $300 today, I would go to Lakeside (Inn & Casino). They’re giving away $40,000 today,” he said of the Stateline casino’s 16th anniversary party Wednesday.
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