Bush administration budget negotiators proposed a package of tax increases that would cut the assessments for taxpayers whose annual incomes are more than $50,000 while raising taxes for those whose incomes are lower, officials familiar with the proceedings said yesterday.
A Democratic tax offer, on the other hand, would cut taxes for those with incomes lower than $20,000 a year while raising them for those with higher incomes, officials said.
It was not clear last night where the competing proposals stood as White House and congressional officials continued their budget talks at the Andrews Air Force Base Officers' Club.
The administration tax offer contains several controversial elements, including plans to limit the federal deductibility of state and local income taxes and to cut the capital gains tax rate, the officials said. It also includes such revenue-losing provisions as extending tax credits for research and development activities. Individual income tax rates would not be changed.
The Democratic offer would impose a 20 percent surtax on those with incomes of more than $500,000 a year and a 10 percent tax on the purchase of such luxury items as automobiles and boats that cost more than $30,000, jewelry with price tags higher than $5,000, electronic equipment costing more than $1,000 and furs costing more than $500, the officials said.
Both include competing provisions to raise taxes on energy and alcoholic beverages. They also have several items in common, including boosts in the federal tax on airline tickets and tax breaks for domestic oil and gas exploration, the officials said.
The administration plan would cut taxes for taxpayers whose incomes are more than $50,000 a year by $11 billion over five years while raising taxes by $4.1 billion for those with lower incomes, according to an analysis that Congress's nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation produced for the bargainers. The income figures in the analysis are for individual or joint tax returns.
Those whose annual incomes are more than $100,000 would have their taxes cut $2.9 billion over five years and those with incomes higher than $200,000 a year would pay $7.4 billion less in taxes.
Hardest hit would be individuals and families with incomes between $20,000 and $40,000 a year, who would pay $2.8 billion more over five years than under current law, according to the analysis. Overall, individual income tax receipts would be reduced by $7 billion over five years by the administration proposal.
The shifting tax burden would be much different under the Democratic plan, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Those whose annual incomes are lower than $20,000 would pay $4 billion less over five years than under current law, with those taking in between $10,000 and $20,000 would benefit by $3.5 billion.
Those with incomes higher than $20,000 would have their tax bills increased by $26.8 billion under the Democratic plan. The greatest increase would fall on those with incomes of more than $200,000, who would pay $8.9 billion more in taxes. In all, individual income taxes would rise a total of $22.8 billion.
Fairness has been the keystone of the Democrats' arguments over the tax component of an hoped-for five-year, $500 billion deficit-reduction plan that would save $50 billion in the first year. Republicans, on the other hand, have been adamant that individual income taxes not rise.
Democrats have maintained that they would not accept President Bush's proposed capital gains tax cut, which they contend would disproportionately benefit the rich, without an accompanying increase in taxes on the wealthy.
The administration tax plan would place a $10,000 limit on the amount of state and local taxes that could be deducted on federal income tax returns. Strongly opposed by lawmakers from states with high income taxes, the provision would generate $35 billion in new revenue over five years, the officials said.
Among the provisions in the Democratic plan, is an extension of the 1.45 percent Medicare payroll tax to cover all taxpayers' incomes. Currently, the levy is paid only on the first $51,300 of wages.
Negotiators met yesterday at Andrews for a seventh day of sequestered bargaining that they hope will be the final phase of talks. They have vowed to keep working until the talks either produce agreement or break down irrevocably.
The negotiators recessed about 10 o'clock last night and will resume talks at 11 a.m. today.
House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said yesterday he was still optimistic that a deal could be reached by the end of the week. Grinning, he quickly added: "Sunday is the end of the week for me. . . . Whatever we think it is going to take, it is going to take longer." Bush administration officials said a conclusion of the negotiations was not likely before next week.
The pace of the talks was "glacial," an official said yesterday. "There is no single issue holding it up," Foley said. "There are a lot of tough issues in every aspect of disagreement. . . . They are all difficult."
Among the most difficult are taxes and a proposal, first made by Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.), to require upper-income Medicare recipients to pay higher premiums for the voluntary coverage of most physician and hospital out-patient services, the officials said.
Bargainers appeared to be backing away from the proposal, which has been incorporated into Democratic offers, as lawmakers outside the talks expressed opposition to the proposal.