Baucus Highlights Montana in Payroll Tax Negotiations

By Beacon Staff

A bipartisan U.S. House-Senate conference committee tasked with drafting a package to extend the payroll tax break along with federal unemployment benefits held its first meeting on Tuesday. Not surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that “fault lines emerged early over how to pay for the measures and what other provisions should be folded into any agreement.” The Keystone XL pipeline is again at the center of discussions.

For Montanans, it should be interesting to see Democratic Sen. Max Baucus once again serving as a point man for an important round of negotiations, on the heels of his participation in both the federal health care reform and “supercommittee” deficit-cutting talks. Baucus is co-chair of the 20-member payroll tax cut extension committee along with Dave Camp, a Republican representative from Michigan.

Baucus sent out a press release soon after the first meeting convened on Tuesday afternoon, announcing that he highlighted Montana families who are counting on the payroll tax break extension.

“Families in Montana and across the country are watching to see if we can deliver. They are watching to see if Congress can work. I believe we can. But this isn’t about a Washington debate. It’s about the consequences to our economy if we don’t deliver. Those consequences are real and they affect each and every family we represent.”

In elaborating on his point, Baucus cited a specific family: the Becketts of Butte.

“Those families – like the Beckett family in Butte, Montana – are the reason we’re here. If we don’t extend the payroll tax cut, Jeff Beckett, an electrician, will pay 800 dollars more in taxes this year. That’s 800 dollars the Becketts can’t spend on groceries at the local Albertsons. And that’s money Jeff can’t use to take his daughters Piper and Paige to the Silver Bow Pizza Parlor on Friday nights. That’s 800 dollars not pumping into the local Butte economy. And that’s just for one worker alone.

It’s our job to work together here to make sure this tax cut doesn’t expire for families like the Becketts. We need to show we can rise above politics for the good of the country.”