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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Budget deal hinges on fee increases that some say are tax hikes in disguise -- bY Susan Ferrechio, David Drucker, The Washington Examiner

A proposal to raise various government fees to offset sequester-driven budget cuts is at the heart of a pending congressional budget deal, though some are warning lawmakers that higher fees is another way of saying tax increase.

It's highly unlikely that the new revenue raised under the deal will be described as a tax increase by the top two officials at the bargaining table, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

But higher fees would generate as much as $65 billion to replace the unpopular cuts in military and domestic spending mandated under the budget-trimming sequester. Those cuts are set to take effect in mid-January.

Details of the fee hikes remain under wraps, but lawmakers have considered increasing fees on airline tickets and new mortgages, raising insurance premiums for pension funds and requiring federal civilian employees to contribute more toward their retirement.

"It's basically the same thing as a tax increase," said Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action, an arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Affected trade groups agree, and have appealed to lawmakers to reject fee increases, which they say are being used too recently to supplement the general budget.

The airline industry is among those opposed to the Ryan-Murray deal, which would double the security tax passengers now pay for the Transportation Security Administration. The fee would rise to $5 per passenger, which the airline lobby said would add $1.2 trillion annually to the cost of air travel.

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