WASHINGTON — Sen. Patty Murray and the Senate Democrats on Wednesday will offer a budget plan outlining how much they believe the federal government should tax and spend in the upcoming fiscal year and beyond.
As the new chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Murray is pushing a fiscal blueprint that attempts to preserve much of the expansive government programs that helped her working-class Bothell family get ahead.
Murray’s plan would raise $1 trillion in new taxes over the next decade by targeting upper-income Americans and tax breaks for corporations. It seeks to cut spending by roughly the same amount in order to shrink — but not eliminate — the current $1.1 trillion annual deficit.
The plan also includes $100 billion in stimulus spending on roads and other infrastructure, according to details released by Senate Democrats.
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If approved, it would be the first budget resolution passed by the Senate since 2009.
Murray’s vision is a stark alternative to the Republican proposal rolled out Tuesday by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. The Ryan plan includes no new taxes; collapses six income-tax brackets to two, 10 percent or 25 percent; and rolls back spending on Medicare, Medicaid and a host of entitlement programs.
It also balances the budget by 2023, in large part by eliminating the expansion of government-subsidized health coverage under the Affordable Care Act while benefiting from higher taxes on wealthier households that President Obama signed in January against Republican opposition.
Murray said her 10-year plan does not wipe out the deficit within that time frame because she sought to balance deficit reduction against nurturing the still-recovering economy.
Americans “want to know we are getting our budget under control, which we do in a very direct way, but they also want to make sure we invest in the kind of country that cares” about veterans, educating children and investing in roads and bridges, she said.
Murray’s plan will get its first vote Thursday when it comes before the budget committee’s 12 Democrats and 10 Republicans. She said she expects the resolution to clear the committee without any Republican support.
Economists agree that with an aging population, Medicare spending poses the biggest long-term threat to the federal deficit. Murray said her plan “absolutely” includes structural changes to rein in Medicare spending without affecting beneficiaries. She declined to elaborate.
Budget resolutions are largely guidance documents. But once adopted, they set binding spending caps on the congressional appropriations committees that write the actual spending bills.
Murray has seized on the budget resolution as an ideological road map for the kind of government she believes most Americans want.
When Murray was growing up, that government provided her family food stamps when her father was disabled with multiple sclerosis, helped pay for her mother to earn an accounting degree, and helped put Murray and her siblings through college on Pell grants.
“Fortunately for all of us, we lived in a country where the government didn’t just say “tough luck. It extended a helping hand,” Murray said during a budget committee hearing last month. “Today, my family may have been called takers, not makers.”
Murray gave up chairing the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to succeed retiring Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota on the budget panel. In contrast to Conrad, a moderate Democrat who pushed to whittle down the national debt, Murray has embraced more-liberal budget priorities.
In fiscal 2012, the federal government collected $2.45 trillion in taxes. That equaled 15.8 percent of the gross domestic product, the smallest share in more than three decades, according to the Congressional Budget Office. At the same time, the federal government spent $3.54 trillion, leaving more than $1 trillion in red ink. Sixty percent of the federal outlays went to Social Security, defense, Medicare and Medicaid. Murray also has taken aim at tax breaks and subsidies she believes are skewed in favor of richer taxpayers. The so-called tax expenditures are expected to cost the Treasury some $1.3 trillion this year.
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