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Queens Dems split on Obama tax deal

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The $858 billion bipartisan tax compromise bill President Barack Obama signed into law Friday exposed divisions on economic issues between Queens Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

While Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) voted to approve the bill, Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) and Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) strongly opposed and voted against the legislation, which passed the House by a vote of 277-148.

Meeks’ southeast Queens district has the highest foreclosure rate in the state and 15 percent unemployment, so he said he voted for the legislation because the stimulative aspects of its $801 billion in tax cuts — which keep all Bush-era tax rates for two years, lower estate taxes and provide a one-year payroll tax cut for most workers — and $57 billion in extended unemployment benefits will help his constituents.

“Though I have reservations about the impact on the deficit resulting from a tax cut for millionaires and an estate tax package that is overly generous, taken as a whole, I believe this deal will have a strong, stimulative effect on the economy,” he said in a statement before the House vote. “The deal the president has reached will provide essential relief to my constituen­ts.”

Ackerman said he chose to vote against the plan because major tax cuts for billionaires and its estate tax changes will saddle the country with debt while doing nothing for the vast majority of his constituents. “When it came to giving money to the billionaires, they didn’t care if it added to the deficit,” he said. “These are billionaires, the wealthiest people in the country. It’s just adding debt to our grandchild­ren’s accounts, and we’re going to be paying for the rest of our lives, too.”

Maloney voted for the bill, although she expressed conflicting views on its provisions during floor remarks last Thursday.

“This is the best deal struggling Americans are going to get. The bill extends tax cuts for middle-class families .... The bill’s one-year payroll tax reduction will deliver $120 billion in tax relief for working families .... 160,000 New Yorkers who will lose their unemployment benefits this month unless Congress takes action to extend them,” she said. “However, this bill is far from perfect. With rising income inequality and mounting national debt, it is deeply troubling that we are extending tax cuts to the wealthiest among us despite their proven lack of stimulative effect.”

Weiner said he voted against the bill because he believes it will have a lasting negative impact on the middle class, who will spend years paying large sums of money to fund tax cuts for the very wealthy.

“I think it’s irresponsible to borrow money from the Chinese to give big tax cuts to millionaires and billionair­es,” he said. “I don’t think that we got as good a bargain as we should have but now we’re moving forward. Hopefully this is not a template for negotiations in the future.”

But Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said the bill’s middle-classe provisions were too important to let it fail.

“The Obama tax proposal will help middle-class Americans who are struggling to make ends meet and ensure American businesses and workers are able to compete in the global economy,” he said. “While this bill is not perfect, it will ensure that nearly 40,000 middle-class residents in my district won’t see their income taxes go up January 1.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 6:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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