WASHINGTON -- A majority of the Maryland House delegation said yesterday they could support the latest plan to cut the budget deficit by increasing taxes on the wealthy, raising the gasoline tax by 5 cents and limiting premium increases for Medicare beneficiaries.
Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said he backed what he termed a "much better" plan than the failed agreement that had been reached two weeks ago by congressional leaders and the Bush administration. "I think the caucus is going to be supportive," he predicted.
Meanwhile, Representatives Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd, and Constance A. Morella, R-Md.-8th, also said they could support the plan, and Representative Kweisi Mfume, D-Md.-7th, said he was "leaning toward it."
Representative Roy P. Dyson, D-Md.-1st, who voted against the previous budget agreements partly because of the Medicare premium increases, said yesterday he had not reviewed the latest proposal. Representative Beverly B. Byron, D-Md.-6th, could not be reached for comment.
Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, who voted against the previous accords, arguing that they did not cut enough spending, said she would probably vote the same way again.
The plan would raise the income tax rate on the wealthiest Americans.
"They tried to make it a little more fair," said Mr. Mfume.
Mrs. Morella said that she supported the lower increases for Medicare but that she was disappointed the proposed surtax on those earning more than $1 million was scrapped because of opposition from the White House.
The plan would limit deductions on those whose taxable income is above $200,000. In Maryland, 15,471 tax returns were filed last year in which income exceeded $200,000, said Marvin Bond, spokesman for the state Comptroller's Office.
"The upper incomes have benefited the most" from the last decade of prosperity, said Mr. Cardin. "They should pay the larger share."