Tax code a 'rotten, dysfunctional mess,' new Senate Finance chairman says

The new head of the Senate Finance Committee wants to renew more than 50 tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013 as his first goals in the post.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said on Bloomberg TV’s “Political Capital” that the measures, known as tax extenders, will be the first in a “two-step drill” toward more comprehensive tax reform.

“My first choice would be to first go to comprehensive tax reform, rather than to have to proceed with the extenders,” he said.

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“But the reality is, when the House leadership last November, in effect, declared that ObamaCare was their primary issue, that changed the timetable. So I am not going to sacrifice important matters like research and development and innovation on the altar of perhaps some inaction on comprehensive reform.”

The current tax code, he said, is a “rotten, dysfunctional mess,” but renewing the tax extenders can be a “bridge” on which both Democrats and Republicans can agree.

Wyden did not give a specific timeframe for renewing the tax breaks, but indicated that he would like to tackle the issue in the next few months.

More comprehensive reform, meanwhile, may take much longer.

“It would be obviously a big lift to enact a comprehensive reform package this year, but we can make a lot of headway,” he said on the TV program.

To reform the tax code, Wyden said he would begin with groundwork that was laid in the 1980s with former President Ronald Reagan and a number of Democratic senators. That plan would set a threshold for people to count some of the money they made from investments as normal income under the tax code, instead of capital gains.     

Wyden took over the Finance Committee when former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the previous chairman, was confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to China earlier this month.