Issues / Legislation » Legislative Weekly Reports

Week Ending May 25, 2012

Ending the Bush Era-Tax Breaks

The temporary tax breaks signed into law by President George W. Bush, which caused the federal deficit to explode and overwhelmingly benefited the richest 2% of taxpayers, are set to expire at the end of the year unless extended by Congress. Although a fight has been expected at the end of the year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) recently said he will schedule a House vote this summer to extend all of the tax breaks. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a letter to Boehner urging an immediate vote to make permanent only the Bush-era tax breaks for the middle class. Pelosi requested a vote “as early as next week,” saying the wealthiest Americans must pay their fair share. Boehner opposes ending the tax cuts for millionaires.

According to Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) in a newly released analysis, compared to current policy ending the Bush tax breaks for the richest 2% – those taxpayers earning over $250,000 a year –  will save about $1.1 trillion over 10 years. CTJ also estimates that ending the Bush tax breaks for those earning more than $1 million will save about $700 billion, approximately 40% less. Meanwhile, Senate action on the tax breaks is not expected anytime soon, although 40 GOP senators joined Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in support of continuing all the current tax cuts, including for the richest 2%.

AFSCME strongly supports President Obama’s call for ending the tax breaks for income over $250,000 for joint filers and $200,000 for single filers, and has joined with other progressive allies in calling on Congress to end the Bush tax breaks for the richest 2%. An emerging grassroots coalition initiated by AFSCME, Americans for Tax Fairness, is committed to this goal. The coalition – which includes the AFL-CIO, NEA, SEIU, Center for American Progress, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights – supports needed investments in critical areas such as education and rebuilding infrastructure to create and sustain jobs. This requires that everyone pay their fair share of taxes, including big corporations and the richest 2% with incomes above $250,000 a year. Here is the coalition’s press release.

Senate GOP Leadership Blocks Vote to Prevent Doubling of Student Loan Rates

With just over a month to go before the interest rate on federally-subsidized Federal Direct Stafford loans doubles from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1, the Senate GOP leadership continues to block this critical vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) bill (S. 2343) is a responsible fix to the student loan problem. It would prevent 7.4 million students from paying higher interest rates this year by closing a tax loophole that only benefits wealthy individuals seeking to dodge their tax responsibilities. The GOP bill (S. 2366) would pay for maintaining the interest rate by eliminating a public health fund for preventive health services. S. 2343 is must-pass legislation. We will keep you updated on its progress as the clock ticks closer to July 1.

Paycheck Fairness Act Vote Expected Soon

The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3220) is expected to be on the Senate floor for a vote the week of June 4. Nearly 50 years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act (EPA) into law, women continue to be paid less for the same work as men in comparable fields and with comparable educations, earning an average of 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. The average pay gap is $10,784 a year, or over $430,000 in lost earnings over a woman’s lifetime.

The first bill President Obama signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, was an important step to enable women who were paid less than their peers to sue for discrimination and be compensated for their lost wages. S. 3220 strengthens the Lilly Ledbetter Act and closes EPA loopholes to bar retaliation against workers – both men and women – who voluntarily discuss or disclose their wages. And, the bill would allow women to receive the same remedies for sex-based pay discrimination that are currently available to individuals who have been subjected to race and ethnicity-based discrimination, and to provide training and technical assistance to prevent discrimination.

AFSCME strongly supports this bill and urges you to contact your senator to co-sponsor and vote for The Paycheck Fairness Act. Call toll-free at:

1-888-678-9475

to speak with your senator today.

Affordable Care Act Saves Medicare Beneficiaries Over $3.5 Billion

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare beneficiaries saved $3.5 billion on their prescription drugs from the law’s enactment in March 2010 through April 2012. In the first four months of 2012 alone, more than 416,000 people saved an average of $724 on their prescription medicines. The ACA provides a 50% discount on brand-name prescription drugs and, starting this year, a 14% discount on generics. In addition, from January through April of this year, 12.1 million people in traditional Medicare received at least one preventative service at no cost to them. This lifesaving help would disappear if the changes to Medicare proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), and adopted by the House along party lines, became law.

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