Healthcare taxes could shift to deficit reduction

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Democrats could use a proposed new tax on the wealthy to pay down the deficit, if there's money left over after funding healthcare reform.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said if more savings are found than the initial amount estimated to help offset the $1 trillion-plus healthcare plan, the tax revenues carved out to offset the bill’s cost could be funneled toward deficit reduction.

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As part of their healthcare proposal, Democrats included $544 billion in taxes targeting the wealthiest 1.2 percent of taxpayers. The remainder of the $1.04 trillion price tag would be offset through changes to Medicare and Medicaid designed to save the government hundreds of billions of dollars.

“I hope we can change that percentage and get much more coming from savings,” Pelosi said. “In fact, I believe that all of the cost of the healthcare reform bill can come from squeezing more savings out of the system."

Asked why Democrats were proposing more than $500 billion in new taxes if savings alone could fund their healthcare plan, Pelosi said: “We have to have a revenue stream to ensure that the bill will be paid for. If we don’t need that money we can use it to reduce the deficit.”

This week the federal deficit for the year topped $1 trillion for the first time ever. The Obama administration has projected a $1.84 trillion deficit for the fiscal year ending in October.

The House Ways and Means Committee was on Thursday morning beginning its markup of the $544 billion tax provision of the healthcare bill.

Pelosi did also suggest that the new surtaxes on individuals making more than $280,000 and married couples making more than $350,000 could eventually be altered.

“The surcharge that is on there is on the high end,” Pelosi said. “If we can get more savings we can perhaps lower the percentage that the high end will pay.”

Still, she made her preference clear.

"There is going to be a revenue change at the high end," Pelosi said. "It will be directed to reduce the deficit or ... to help reduce the cost of this initiative. I believe that we have an obligation to try to squeeze as much savings out of the system so that we can use as much of the tax on the high-income earners in our country to reduce the deficit."