By TOM GIAMBRONI
LISBON - U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson was among House Republican who voted to raise income taxes on households earning more than $450,000 per year to avoid going over the so-called "fiscal cliff."
In a news release issued Wednesday, Johnson said he voted for the compromise bill because it not only makes permanent the Bush-era tax income tax cuts for 99 percent of Americans, but it clears the way to tackle the bigger issue of "out-of-control federal spending that has amassed a $16 trillion national debt."
"As we start a new year, it is critically important for the president and Senate to work together with the House on the big issues that are driving our debt and stifling job creation. We must strengthen and preserve Medicare, overhaul Medicaid and completely reform our tax code. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to solve our fiscal challenges now so that they may have the same access to the American Dream that our generation has been blessed with," he said, according to the news release.
Households earning more than $450,000 a year will see their income tax increase from 35 percent to 39.6 percent under the bill. These are the current household tax rates by income brackets:
- 0 percent, up to $17,400.
- 15 percent, up to $70,700.
- 25 percent, up to $142,700.
- 28 percent, up to $217,450.
- 33 percent, up to $388,350.
- 35 percent, anything above $388,350.
Households making more than $450,000 a year represent less than 1 percent of all taxpayers. The top 1 percent (adjusted gross annual income of $343,927) accounted for 16.9 percent of the nation's income in 2009 and paid 36.7 percent of the taxes, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The bill prevented: expiration of extended unemployment benefits; a cut in fees for physicians who treat Medicare patients; an expected increase in milk prices; and $24 billion in automatic cuts on new spending increases.
Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman David Johnson said the congressman, who had spoken to him and others around the district before casting his vote, did the right thing for district residents who otherwise faced an across-the-board increase in their tax rates.
"I support his position. I do so holding my nose, as I think Bill does as well," he said, adding widespread tax increases would have likely stalled the modest economic recovery, throwing the country back into recession.
David Johnson, like Rep. Johnson, is disappointed the bill failed to address the exploding national debt, which they view as the biggest threat. "We don't have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem," David Johnson said.
A conservative himself, David Johnson doubts Rep. Johnson will face much of a backlash for his vote. "I'm sure there are some conservatives who might object to this, but it was the best decision for the country," he said.
David and Bill Johnson are not related.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.