The GOP senator thought to be distancing himself from Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge stood with Norquist Oct. 12 at the Capitol to announce a proposed new Warren Buffett-inspired feature to the tax code.
The bill, The Buffett Rule Act of 2011, would create an option for individuals to voluntarily send money to the federal Treasury over and above their tax obligation, said Sen. John R. Thune (R.-S.D.), who is chairman of his chamber’s Republican Policy Committee. It has 29 co-sponsors in the Senate and an identical bill was filed in the House by Rep. Stephen J. Scalise (R.-La.)
Thune said the extra money would not go into general funds, but would be targeted toward lowering the national debt.
“If individuals like Warren Buffett or President Obama are inclined to donate their own personal money toward paying down the federal government’s debt, they ought to have that right to do so voluntarily,” he said.
Taxpayers filing a federal income tax return could choose to donate an amount no less than $1, to be deposited into a fund at the U.S. Treasury dedicated to deficit reduction, Thune said.
“Starting with the 2011 tax year, this legislation would provide a clearly marked, convenient option on tax forms to allow the voluntary donation of money for those wishing to make such a donation,” he added.
“This bill would make it easier for those wealthy individuals who feel they are currently undertaxed to pay more to the U.S. Treasury above and beyond their current obligations, without raising taxes on America’s job creators,” he said.
After his Oct. 5 appearance on MSNBC, the blogosphere and Twitterati were buzzing about Thune’s answer to a question from the network’s Chuck Todd that the pledge not to increase taxes, which hundreds of GOP politicians have signed, should not get in the way of reforming the tax code.
Immediately the headlines proclaimed that Thune, a signatory to the pledge, promoted and monitored by Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), was signaling a break with Norquist, ATR’s founder and president.
The pledge made to the voters, not ATR, binds the signer to neither vote to increase individual or business tax rates nor to eliminate tax breaks or deductions without offsets to make the elimination revenue-neutral.
Althought an October 12 Washingtion Post story continued to press the narrative that Thune was un-synched with the pledge, it added this addition at the bottom of the story: “Thune’s press secretary later clarified the senator’s position: ‘Senator Thune supports broad-based tax reform that lowers rates and broadens the base, so long as it does not result in a net tax increase.'”
Standing with Thune, Norquist gave lie to the notion that the two men were at odds.
“Sen. Thune should be commended for solving Warren Buffett’s seemingly intractable problem,” said Norquist.
“Thanks to Sen. Thune’s leadership, Mr. Buffett soon will be able to simply write a check when he thinks the government can spend his money better than he can.”
Eight states have a mechanism for taxpayers to send in extra money along with their legal tax obligation, according to ATR.org.