WASHINGTON- Maryland representatives voted 5-3 Thursday to eliminate the so-called “marriage tax penalty,” with one Democrat joining all four Republicans in support of the bill.
Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, was one of 64 Democrats and one independent who joined Republicans and voted for President Bush’s Marriage Penalty and Family Tax Relief Act of 2001, which passed on a 282-144 vote.
Wynn would not say why he voted for the measure Thursday, after voting against a similar bill last year that passed 268-158 but was vetoed by President Clinton.
The bill would cut taxes by about $400 billion over the next 10 years, by increasing the standard deduction for married couples and increasing the earned income tax credit on a joint return. It also would double the per-child tax credit from $500 to $1,000.
If passed by the Senate and signed by Bush, the bill would also expand the 15-percent tax bracket to include a greater number of married couples who file jointly.
Supporters say the bill would help about 28 million couples who now face a “marriage penalty,” paying taxes that they would not have to pay if they were single.
“For more than 30 years, Uncle Sam has bestowed this ‘marriage penalty’ or ‘marriage tax’ as a wedding present,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, in a prepared statement. “This bill will reduce the horrible incentive in our tax code for couples to live together instead of getting married.”
Bartlett claimed the bill would benefit more than 113,000 children and 72,000 married couples in his district. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, said it would benefit more than 105,000 children and almost 70,000 couples in his district.
While Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, agreed that some marriage tax relief is needed, he said the Bush plan goes too far. Cardin and the rest of the state’s Democrats voted for a more-modest tax cut sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. That bill failed 231-196.
“I take a more conservative, modest approach to the tax cut,” Cardin said. “The Republican plan explodes in costs just when we’ll need that revenue for Social Security and Medicare.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said he was concerned the administration bill was targeted too much toward the wealthy.
“The Republican bill . . . would largely create a tax windfall for wealthy couples who currently are not penalized,” he said in a press release.
Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, disagreed. He said in a prepared statement that middle-income families would be able to use the tax credit to pay for books, school supplies and other family needs.
The marriage-tax bill is the second Bush tax cut to pass the House this week. On Wednesday, the House voted largely along party lines for a fiscal 2002 budget resolution that included the seeds of a 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut for all taxpayers. Maryland’s delegation split straight down party lines on that vote.