Just one last post before I start my weekend. Don’t worry; I’ll be back on Monday with more political news.
I spend the bulk of my Friday working on two bigger, complicated political stories: one that is the continuation of a political fight that began a week ago, and the other that outlines a major debate that Congress will take up this year that will impact everyone in the country.
First up is an article about the Bush tax cuts, which were mostly put into place in 2001 when economists predicted federal budget surpluses for years to come. But that didn’t happen, and the country now faces record deficits and a growing national debt. Those tax cuts, if Congress doesn’t take action this year, will all expire as of Jan. 1, 2011, and cause sometimes drastic increases in the tax rate for Americans of all income levels.
There are several proposals on the table. Obama and many Democrats have suggested extending the tax cuts for middle class Americans, while letting the reductions expire on the wealthiest Americans in order to take in more tax revenue and keep the deficit lower than it would otherwise become.
Some Republicans have proposed extending all the tax cuts. And that’s a plan that Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.) actually wants to see happen – "for now." He’s worried, like many economists and lawmakers, that letting the tax cuts expire will serve as a tax increase. And that might not be a good thing as the economy struggles to become stable once again, he said.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., sides with the Obama plan. He’d like to see the tax cuts extended for most Americans, while the top wage earners would see their rates return to the higher 2001 levels.
You can read much more about the ideas of Dorgan and Conrad regarding the tax cuts, as well as some information from Grand Forks economist Ralph Kingsbury, who said he was concerned about letting any of the tax cuts expire. My article about the issue is already on the Grand Forks Herald website, and will be in Saturday’s Herald.
And I highly recommend checking out this New York Times graphic that shows just what the Bush tax cuts did, as well as how Obama’s proposal would change the tax rates we now have.
The other big story I wrote today started with a Democratic-NPL Party press release that once again resumed the attack on Republican U.S. House candidate Rick Berg’s voting record.
As I’ve written about before, the issue first came up in a July 23 press release from Dem-NPL Chairman Mark Schneider. But I debunked that release’s claims that a 2003 state bill would have applied to a bank teller who was recently denied workers’ compensation for a mental injury – you can read more about that issue in an article from Tuesday.
Dem-NPL spokeswoman Meredith Pickett dug a bit deeper into Berg’s voting record and found he was one of 80 state representatives to vote a 1995 House bill which actually did exempt "a mental injury caused by a mental stimulus" as a compensable worker injury. You can find out a lot more about Friday’s development in an article that will be in Saturday’s Herald.
Here’s a copy of the press release sent out Friday by Pickett (it also included 12 pages of documents backing up the Dem-NPL analysis of the bills in question):
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: BERG FAILED INJURED WORKERS IN 1995 AND 2003
(BISMARCK, N.D.) – Today the Democratic-NPL is setting the record straight on Rick Berg’s effort to duck responsibility for his record of undermining North Dakota workers.
Berg’s campaign and the North Dakota GOP tried to misrepresent the truth this week by implying that Berg was in no way responsible for Edith Johnson, a bank worker in Gilby, N.D., being denied her claim for a work-related mental injury.
As was recently reported, Berg in 2003 voted to deny mental health coverage for firefighters, police and other emergency workers. But a further review of Berg’s record shows that in 1995, as Chairman of the Industry, Business and Labor Committee, he helped pass a bill that took away benefits for even more North Dakotans injured on the job. While Berg’s vote in 2003 denied benefits to firefighters, police and other emergency workers, his vote in 1995 actually took away benefits for mental injuries that were previously covered for all workers under WSI.
“Rick Berg has a 26-year record of being against average North Dakotans and on the side of big corporate interests,” said Meredith Pickett, spokeswoman for the Democratic-NPL.
It was recently reported that Edith Johnson was suffering from a work-related mental injury after the Gilby bank where she works was robbed by gunmen. According to reports, Johnson was held at gunpoint and left lying hand-cuffed on the floor. WSI has now denied her claim for $1,000 for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, reports said.
“As much as he would try to run from his record, Rick Berg’s actions denied benefits for people like Edith Johnson,” said Pickett. “He was chairman of the key committee and helped take away the benefits that would have helped her. He was House majority leader in 2003 when he gathered the votes to make sure even firefighters and ambulance workers couldn’t get those benefits. He needs to explain to the people of North Dakota how he helped create this situation, and take some steps to make it right.”