Las Vegas Sun

April 18, 2014

Currently: 79° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

The Policy Racket

NV Democratic congressional candidates sparring over payroll tax cuts

Click to enlarge photo

Dina Titus

Click to enlarge photo

Ruben Kihuen

WASHINGTON — Looks like Republicans aren’t the only party infighting over the issue of payroll tax cuts.

Nevada Democrats gunning for the House of Representatives in 2012 have been having a field day watching from home as the payroll tax and unemployment insurance debate plays out in Washington, and throwing blame from the sidelines at incumbent Republicans angling against a bipartisan interim extension of the expiring programs.

But now, one of the Democrats running for Nevada’s 1st Congressional District has brought the fight within party lines.

“I am glad to see that Dina Titus has changed her mind and now says she supports cutting payroll taxes for Nevada workers. Just a few months ago she adamantly stated on the radio that there were more important priorities than extending payroll tax cuts,” said Dan Chavez, a spokesman for state Sen. Ruben Kihuen’s congressional campaign. “I guess that was when she was planning to run in another district. It's a flip for Dina and a flop for families.”

Kihuen is the current underdog in a fight to represent the 1st District, where he’s facing off former 3rd District congresswoman Dina Titus for the Democratic nomination. The only poll of the race thus far — one commissioned by the Titus campaign — puts him at 11 percent to her 77 percent.

Titus put out a release at midday Wednesday calling on House Republicans “to quit playing partisan politics and reconvene to pass the middle class tax cut” or else “Nevada families will see a tax hike on January 1st at a time when they can least afford it.”

The Kihuen campaign is basing their charge on a September interview Titus did with the Las Vegas Sun, in which she expressed concerns about President Barack Obama’s jobs plan proposal’s payroll tax cut plan.

“I don’t think people realize what the payroll tax is, is a payment into Social Security,” Titus said in September. “That money might be better spent on infrastructure … if you extend the payroll tax now, that’s a cost.”

The payroll tax cut under Obama’s proposal was actually an expansion of the existing tax cut for workers and a new initiative for employers: it would have lowered the rate from the standard 6.2 percent to 3.1 percent for workers’ salaries up to $106,800 and employers’ payrolls up to $5 million. (The current, cut payroll tax rate that would be extended by the compromise bill is 4.2 percent.)

Obama’s proposal was not paid for. Current proposals shift money from the general fund to cover the loss to Social Security; the sticking point is where exactly the money being shifted should come from. Democrats want to bring in fresh funds through a millionaire’s surtax; Republicans want to increase Medicare premiums for millionaires, freeze salaries for the federal workforce and eliminate some government jobs.

That still is money that could be used to pay for things other than replenishing Social Security. Titus would not be the only Democrat to have expressed concerns about the precedent that expanding payroll tax cuts set for Social Security; it’s a sentiment Senate Democrats have expressed as well — though most in the end voted for the compromise bill that passed 89 to 10.

But Titus’s campaign manager says Kihuen’s charge is misrepresentation of the facts: she voted for the current payroll tax cut in 2010 when she was in Congress, and tweeted weeks ago that she was in favor of extending them as presented in the current Democratic proposals.

“They’re trying to stir up controversy that’s not there,” campaign manager Jay Gertsema said. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Meanwhile John Oceguera — who came out swinging with statements and press conferences on the payroll tax bill more than 24 hours before Titus — has been keeping up the steadiest cannonade of criticism, his focused on Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who he’s trying to unseat from the 3rd District in 2012.

“Make no mistake, Joe Heck's refusal to pass [the short-term bill] is a tax hike on Nevada's middle class,” Oceguera said. “It's a tax increase on 1.2 million working Nevadans, and 160 million folks across the country.”

Heck has maintained that he objects to the compromise because a two-month bill is a raw deal, and Congress should pass something longer-term.

“To do it for two months, what happens to that person who in February is looking for employment, what are they going to do? They don’t have a guarantee of their next unemployment check,” Heck told the Sun this week. “You can’t do patchwork in two month increments, that’s been the problem with this ... it basically pulls the rug out from underneath Nevadans.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 7 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. I saw Joe Heck's appearance on Channel 3 News at Noon's "The Agenda" segment. He thought he had skillfully dodged the question of why the House Republicans had nixed the original one-year extension because the Democrats wouldn't agree to the drastic cuts in social spending being demanded. His assertions and failure to answer the question only insulted viewers' intelligence. Now he says a two-month extension (to hammer out a more permanent solution) isn't long enough? He's pretending to care about the middle class and unemployed, when they're actually playing games with people's lives. Harry Reid and democratic leaders are right not to trust them.

    Ruben's attack on Dina over this issue seems like he's grasping at straws. Dina has repeatedly made her position known. The fact that she understands the nuances (that a payroll tax cut takes income away from the Social Security fund) shows her grasp of the issues and level of experience.

  2. The concern that a payroll tax cut affects social security in any way is a known fallacy that Republicans use all the time.

    As for experience, Dina has lost 2 of the last 3 elections, uses the F-word on the house floor, said Harry Reid is dead, and has managed to keep 7 friends after 30 years in politics. Come on...we can do better.

  3. Personally I believe this is all rediculous. Dina Titus has worked hard for Nevada for over 20 years. Not only does she support the payroll tax cut, she voted for it while in office, and has said she would vote for it again. This is just a dirty way to try to make an amazing woman look bad. This is why we need her back in Congress, she has more experience and knows what we as middle class families need.

  4. Yesterday I took the opportunity to stop by Joe Hecks office here in Las Vegas. I politely introduced myself to the available staff and informed them the reason for my visit was to enable them to put a face on a Veteran working diligently to put Joe and his entire staff on the unemployment rolls in November. It was a very enjoyable excursion.

  5. At one time I supported Dina Titus. Then, while trying to convey my concerns over the new Las Vegas Waste Water Treatment Plant Project harming our neighborhood, killing hundreds of mature trees, and destroying animal habitat, I approached her office, both on phone and email, and was turned away. This plant is located along East Carey Avenue and Betty Lane, and still is a scorge and blight, with dead trees and zero landscaping---shameful!

    Apparently, Dina Titus only cares about those in her district, not others who reside in the area or State of Nevada. So, that has left me to believe that Dina Titus does only what is expedient for Dina Titus, NOT Nevadans. Being turned away has sent me the message that she caters to those who will promote and carry her politically. It appears that she is a career politician, and that being the case, is a part of America's problem, not a part of the cure. Make no mistake.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  6. This seems to be a habit with Dina, cast doubts, vote for the bill anyway then convince everyone you were a strong supporter of the bill all along. She did it with the health care law, DREAM Act, payroll tax break and who knows what else.

    "Progressive champions" don't usually leave so much doubt in the minds of progressives.

  7. To put it bluntly, Joe Heck is a bum. I'm a registered Republican and believe in a fiscally conservative government but I am SICK AND TIRED of the new Republican dogma of holding middle class America hostage while licking the boots of corporate fatcats who now control the Republican party!

    Heck will say it's because of the 2-month extension when in REALITY it's the keystone pipeline that they're trying to ram through the government. I know it, you should know it, Heck obviously knows it, but he's hoping for middle class ignorance and apathy to get him reelected.