Childers, Nunnelee at odds over tax, spending plans

By EMILY LE COZ / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Congressional candidates Travis Childers and Alan Nunnelee share many views, but tax policy apparently isn’t one of them.
Although both men believe lower taxes help stimulate the economy, they differ in how to apply those taxes.
Childers, the Democratic incumbent in the Nov. 2 election, voted for what arguably was one of the largest tax cuts in American history by supporting the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – commonly known as the stimulus package.
It reduced federal income taxes for about 98 percent of middle-class families, saving them an estimated $282 billion over two years.
On the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire this year, the two men agree on an extension, but they differ on how long.
The Obama administration has proposed extending the tax cuts for those making less than $250,000, and letting them expire for those with incomes above that amount.
Nunnelee, a Republican state senator from Tupelo, wants to make all of the cuts permanent, even for those making more than $250,000; Childers has committed to a one-year extension of all cuts.
“After one year,” said Childers spokesperson Dana Edelstein, “he would like to reassess where our economy is.”
Nunnelee also said he never would have voted for the stimulus package, which he criticized for burdening tomorrow’s adults with today’s debt.
He further claimed it did nothing to boost the economy: “They told us if we don’t pass the bill, unemployment could reach 8 percent. But it went to 12 percent in north Mississippi.”
That rate is about 10.2 percent today.
Childers is quick to reveal that Nunnelee, who chairs the Senate Appropriation’s Committee, used money from that bill to plug state budget holes. He also used money from the second stimulus bill, which Childers supported and Nunnelee opposed.
The Democrat further needled his GOP challenger for allegedly backing a 23 percent national sales tax. It’s a reference to the FairTax bill, which proposes to replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax increase and eliminate the Internal Revenue Service.
Nunnelee said he has reviewed the bill but doesn’t officially support it. Instead, the GOP candidate said he favors legislation to make the federal income tax simpler and more transparent.
He also said Congress needs to lower taxes for small businesses. And his campaign accused Childers for having done the opposite, claiming he voted for higher taxes on small businesses several times while in Congress.
Childers counters that claim, proudly citing his recent Spirit of Enterprise Award by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for having consistently supported small business legislation.
Democrats slam Nunnelee for his own series of tax hikes while in the state Senate. They cite his 1990s-era votes to allow higher property and fuel taxes, as well as his 2009 support of a $90 million hospital-bed tax to fund Medicaid.
Nunnelee, though, remains committed to low – or no – taxes. He is among the numerous elected officials nationwide to sign a pledge against tax increases.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.