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Tax break

The following editorial appeared Tuesday in the Vancouver (Wash.) Columbian.

Congratulations to Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, for shepherding through Congress last Friday night and early Saturday morning an extension of the sales-tax deduction.

The deduction, implemented in 2004, makes perfect sense. It allows taxpayers in eight states that have sales tax but no state income tax to deduct sales taxes from federal income taxes, because taxpayers in states with state income taxes (such as Oregon) may deduct those state income taxes from their federal tax bill.

Washingtonians are projected to save about $500 million in federal taxes next year. Cantwell has said that savings from this and other extended deductions will amount to about $600 per family.

While celebrating the extension, however, let’s also recognize how this legislation’s history symbolized the absurd partisanship that made the 109th Congress so embarrassingly dysfunctional prior to its adjournment at 5 a.m. EST Saturday.

One needs to look no further than the final votes – 367-45 in the House and 79-9 in the Senate – to see how easy it should have been to extend this deduction. Add the fact that seven of the eight affected states were “red” states prior to Nov. 7, plus the fact that the Republican-controlled 109th Congress should have eagerly gulped down these tax breaks, and any delay becomes even more ridiculous.

Yet Republicans had insisted on tying passage of the deduction to other unrelated measures, such as permanent repeal of the federal estate tax.

President Bush should sign the measure quickly, so that the eminently logical sales-tax deduction is extended. In fact, the 110th Congress should make the deduction permanent. But don’t hold your breath. If it’s anything like the 109th Congress, the new group will connect sales-tax deduction to the creation of a National Nephews Day or the abolition of the American League’s designated hitter rule or some other absurdity.

Likely, though, the next Congress will be different. It will be controlled by the Democrats, which doesn’t in itself make it automatically better. The new majority will have to prove itself, and it can start by avoiding partisan shenanigans.

Again, kudos to Cantwell and Baird, who helped create the deduction that began in 2004 and then coaxed its extension last week, no thanks to their politically charged congressional colleagues who chose, in vain, to play political games.


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