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Sen. Rockefeller champions fiscal cliff tax cut extensions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fiscal cliff legislation passed by Congress at 2:30 a.m. on New Year's Day will continue tax cuts and benefits for 99.7 percent of West Virginia's families, Sen. Jay Rockefeller said."If Congress had failed to pass this bill, tax credits that help low- and middle-income West Virginia families pay their bills and afford college would have disappeared," Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said in a statement released Thursday morning."I refused to let that happen, despite warped efforts by House Republicans to place more of the burden on those already hurting."Sen. Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick J. Rahall, both D-W.Va., also voted for the legislation, while Reps. Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley, both R-W.Va., voted against it.Rockefeller believes the legislation passed on Tuesday will help narrow the income gap "between the very wealthy and those who work but struggle every day, especially in a tough economy."Under the legislation, only individuals who make more than $400,000 a year, and families that make more than $450,000, will see their tax rates return to the higher rates assessed when Bill Clinton was president.The new legislation did not continue the payroll tax cut passed in 2010 that reduced Social Security taxes from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. Rockefeller believes the payroll tax cut "should have continued temporarily in a way that still protected Social Security."But, even without the payroll tax cut,' he said, "this bill significantly benefits West Virginians, and the net total puts more money in West Virginians' pockets."The new legislation also keeps several tax credits and advantages in place, which would have disappeared on New Year's Day if the legislation had not passed.Tax cuts for individuals and families, re-enacted for five years, include:  
  • Earned Income Tax Credits, which returned $329 million to almost 160,000 working West Virginians in 2011 -- more than $2,000 for each person who qualified.
  • Expanded Child Tax Credits that help 102,000 West Virginia children and their families, allowing them to claim up to $1,000 for each child they have. 
  • American Opportunity Tax Credits that gave 33,000 West Virginians $64 million in 2011, averaging almost $2,000 per student in college. This credit can be used to pay for tuition, living costs and textbooks.
    Tax cuts for economic development, coal mine safety and school construction in the fiscal cliff legislation include: 
  • The New Markets Tax Credit, which has provided more than $55 million in new investments for economic projects in low-income and rural communities, including hardware stores, child day-care centers and local coal mines. The program has created 300,000 jobs in low-income communities.
  •  Rockefeller wrote the legislation creating the NMTC in 2006 and fought successfully to expand it under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.
  • The Mine Rescue Team Training Credit, which provides up to $10,000 for coal companies to train mine rescue teams and to invest in equipment to help miners return safely from work. This program also pays for about 20 percent of the costs to train miners how to rescue their fellow workers.
  • The "Election to Expense Advanced Mine Safety Equipment" legislation, which pays half the costs for coal companies to buy new life-saving safety equipment, including: communications systems, electronic tracking devices, emergency breathing equipment, additional oxygen supplies and equipment that measures levels of carbon monoxide, methane and oxygen inside mines.
  •  Rockefeller also mentioned: 
  • The Short Line Rail Track Maintenance Credit, which provides tax credits of 50 cents for every dollar spent by short-line railroad companies to improve their tracks.
  •  Today, West Virginia is the country's second largest producer of railroad ties. This tax credit is especially helpful to rural areas where short-line railroads are often the only transportation available to help companies ship their products.  
  • Qualified Zone Academy Bonds, which help disadvantaged communities finance construction and renovations in their public schools.
  •   In addition to these tax credits, Rockefeller pointed out, the legislation also continued unemployment benefits for about 10,000 West Virginians actively looking for jobs.There are another 29,000 unemployed West Virginians receiving state benefits who could receive federal unemployment benefits until the end of 2013, if they are needed.Reach Paul J. Nyden at or 304-348-5164.
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