Candidates Accept Compromise But Criticize New Tax Increases Duckworth: Medicare Cuts 'Unacceptable'

October 04, 1990|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Both candidates for Maryland's 4th-district congressional seat said yesterday they aren't satisfied with last Sunday's budget compromise, a five-year plan that would raise taxes and slash $500 billion from the federal budget deficit.

But Republican hopeful Bob Duckworth said he would reluctantly support the package "because the consequences of not reaching any agreement at all would have such a devastating impact on our economy."

U.S. Representative Tom McMillen, D-4th, is still studying the plan, but his press secretary said the package "is not his version of a budget agreement."

But both candidates blamed the opposing party for what they say is wrong with the compromise. "Is this the best deal we can get out of this White House?" asked McMillen's spokesman, Brad Fitch. "That is the question."

Duckworth said the Democrats forced President George Bush into a corner.

"He did the best he could, considering they were twisting his arm."

Congress must pass a new budget reflecting the bi-partisan agreement by tomorrow to avoid across-the-board spending cuts of $105.7 billion, as required under the Gramm-Rudman deficit-reduction law.

The compromise would increase gasoline taxes, raise "sin" taxes on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages and increase federal taxes on airline tickets. The package also would impose a new tax on luxury items and increase income taxes for individuals earning more than $100,000 a year.

One of the most volatile aspects of the bill is the $60 billion cut from Medicare, which would be done by increasing taxes and fees and reducing benefits. Patients' annual deductible would double, from $75 to $150, and annual premiums would increase from about $28 to $34 in 1991.

Duckworth said the Medicare cuts are unacceptable. "It is a lousy deal for seniors," he said. "Instead of cleaning up Medicare, they reduced the benefits."

The Republican candidate said the budget plan does not address the deficit. "I'm afraid the next Congress -- the same incumbents -- will do the same thing. We would have a less painful package if there existed some leadership. They can't look beyond tomorrow.

"The tax raises will go into affect," Duckworth said. "There is no doubt about that. But will the spending cuts go into effect where they should?"

There are some good points to the budget package, Duckworth said, including tax incentives for investment in economically depressed urban areas and for developing oil and gas reserves.

Fitch said McMillen's two major problems with the package are the cuts in Medicare and the regressive nature of the tax increases. Taxing items such as cigarettes and alcohol are considered regressive because everyone must pay the same percentage, regardless of their income level.

But Fitch said McMillen was happy that some sort of a compromise could be worked out so that the threatened furloughs of federal workers could be avoided.

As for the ensuing debate, Fitch said, "You are going to see the most rancorous debate you have seen in recent years. The question we are facing is, when do you pay the bill? Up until this date, that has always been tomorrow."

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