WASHINGTON — Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said Wednesday he won't support a $900 billion compromise between the White House and Capitol Hill Republicans that would preserve tax breaks for middle class families and millionaires.
"I'm not going to vote for it," Smith said in an interview. The accord, he said, adds too much to the federal deficit and does little to overhaul a tax code that has become too "complex" and "convoluted."
Smith is the second member of the state's congressional delegation to oppose the agreement, which would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for two years, extend emergency unemployment benefits through the end of 2011 and cut payroll taxes for workers.
The final details have yet to be worked out, and it remained unclear Wednesday whether the legislation also would include a provision again allowing residents of Washington and a handful of others states to deduct state sales taxes from their federal returns. The deduction, which expires at the end of the year, saves Washington residents between $350 million and $500 million annually on their federal taxes.
In an effort to overcome skepticism from House Democrats, the White House dispatched Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday to sell the package to the Democratic caucus. A day earlier, Biden spoke to the Senate Democratic caucus.
President Barack Obama has argued that it was the best deal he could get from congressional Republicans and vowed to fight them again when the Bush tax cuts expire in two years. Obama added that the extended jobless benefits and the one-year reduction in the payroll tax would provide a further boost to the economy.
Smith acknowledged that the package might help stimulate the economy, but he said the deficit and tax code were overriding concerns.
"It perpetuates a tax code no one likes and adds $900 billion to the deficit," Smith said.
Smith said there was no rush on extending the Bush tax cuts, which expire at the end of the year.
"I don't think we are down to the last minute," he said. "If we get to January and don't have a deal, we can make it retroactive."
In announcing his opposition to the compromise, Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., said tax cuts for millionaires would expand the deficit and "compromise is not enshrining bad economic policy for another two years."
Other Washington state Democrats have yet to make up their minds.
Rep. Rick Larsen said Congress needed to find the "right balance between tax cuts, fiscal responsibility and action to get our economy moving again."
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., indicated he would support the package.
"While I'd like to see the rates made permanent, this two-year extension of all rates will allow members of Congress to have a broader tax reform discussion without a massive, imminent tax hike on families and small businesses hanging in the balance," Reichert said.
Other Republicans from the state are expected to support the compromise, though they haven't given a formal indication where they stand.
Votes have not yet been scheduled in the House or the Senate.
Washington state's two Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, are waiting to see what legislation eventually emerges from the Senate Finance Committee.
Murray's top priorities are the sales tax deduction and extending unemployment benefits, said Murray spokeswoman Alex Glass.
"Senator Murray has always worked to lower taxes on middle-class families and small businesses," Glass said. "But she has concerns about the framework of this plan, which adds to our national deficit by extending tax cuts to those who need them least."
McClatchy Newspapers 2010