Millionaires group to lobby for higher taxes -- on themselves
As the deadline nears for the congressional “super committee” to come up with a deficit-slashing plan, a group of people who have made $1 million a year or more is pressing lawmakers to raise tax rates on the nation’s highest income earners.
Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, an organization formed in 2010, said it’s sending a delegation of 21 members to Washington on Wednesday to seek meetings with super committee senators and representatives.
The group’s message: “Any super committee deal that does not include higher taxes for millionaires should be killed.”
Among those in the group heading to Washington for the lobbying effort: Leo Hindery Jr., former chief executive of AT&T Broadband; Frank Jernigan, a former senior software engineer for Google Inc.; and Garrett Gruener, founder of Ask.com.
Republicans and Democrats have been far apart on the issue of boosting tax revenue as part of any deal to pare the deficit. The super committee faces a Nov. 23 deadline to reach agreement on how to cut $1.5 trillion from deficits over the next decade.
Patriotic Millionaires was formed a year ago as Congress debated whether to extend the personal income tax cuts that took effect during President George W. Bush’s first term. Ultimately, Congress and President Obama agreed on a two-year extension of the cuts.
But Obama in September called for a new tax on millionaires as a way to raise revenue.
At a minimum, the millionaires group wants the top tax rate for the highest earners to return to 39.6%, from the current 35%, according to Erica Payne, a spokeswoman for the organization.
“Many would like the tax rate to be higher” than 39.6%, she said. The higher rate should apply to anyone grossing more than $1 million in income, she said. IRS data show that 235,000 households reported adjusted gross income of at least $1 million in 2009.
The group says it has about 200 members in all, including more than a dozen current and former Google employees, actress Edie Falco and economist Nouriel Roubini.
The delegation heading to Washington also will meet with anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, the father of the “no tax increases” pledge that most Republicans in Congress have signed.
"They asked to meet. I said, ‘sure,’” Norquist told the Associated Press. “I suppose somebody told them the only thing standing in the way of their wonderful act of charity is me.”
Norquist has an alternative revenue-raising plan: He says those making $1 million a year or more who want to pay higher taxes are free to make direct contributions to the U.S. Treasury, over and above whatever taxes they owe.
-- Tom Petruno
Photo: The congressional "super committee" for budget cuts, seated in the front row, meets in Washington last month. Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images