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Taxes emerge in health talks

Democrats to seek surtax on wealthiest Americans

WASHINGTON – Capping weeks of negotiations over how to pay for a health care overhaul that could top $1 trillion over the next decade, senior House Democrats have settled on a proposal to cover a significant portion of the cost by raising income taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., said Friday that the plan – which Democrats expect to present in detail Monday – could generate as much as $540 billion over 10 years.

Married taxpayers earning more than $350,000 a year in adjusted gross income and single filers making more than $280,000 a year would pay a surtax of about 1 percent.

The added tax would be higher for people in higher income brackets.

The tax plan still faces an uncertain fate in the House and in the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans are working on their own proposals to offset the costs of helping tens of millions of people get health insurance.

Funding has emerged in recent weeks as one of the most politically explosive parts of the emerging health care debate on Capitol Hill.

On Friday, senior House Democrats sought to reassure moderate “Blue Dogs” and other centrist lawmakers who have charged that the health care bill being pushed by party leaders does not do enough to bring down costs, protect small businesses and boost payments to rural health care providers.

“Their concerns will be reflected in changes were are making,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., one of three lead authors of the House health care bill who met with moderates Friday. “I think we made some good progress.”

Waxman said revisions to the bill would exempt more small businesses from having to pay any fees if they do not provide insurance to their employees and include more changes in Medicare to bring down costs.

Speaking from the G-8 summit in Italy on Friday, President Barack Obama insisted that health care legislation is still on track despite a week of fits and starts on Capitol Hill.

“There are going to be some tough negotiations in the days and weeks to come, but I’m confident that we’re going to get it done,” Obama said. “We’re closer to that significant reform than at any time in recent history.”


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