In an effort to garner more support for the Wall Street bailout bill, the Senate added “tax extenders” to its bill. One of the additions — which some conservatives are labeling “pork” and “tax earmarks” — is a six-page measure protecting Alaskans from having to pay taxes on rewards from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, starting on page 301:
SEC. 504. INCOME AVERAGING FOR AMOUNTS RECEIVED IN CONNECTION WITH THE EXXON VALDEZ LITIGATION [...]
(c) (1)…no portion of qualified settlement income received by a qualified taxpayer shall be treated as self-employed income.
(2)…no portion of qualified settlement income received by a qualified taxpayer shall be treated as wages.
Despite Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) oft-repeated vow to “veto every single bill with earmarks” and to “make them famous,” he has indicated he will vote for today’s bill, apparently earmarks and all. This case seems to be yet another time that McCain’s anti-earmark rhetoric can’t match his actions.
Of course, voting against the earmark could cause a rift between him and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK). A search through Thomas reveals that it was Palin’s own senator, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who first introduced the Exxon measure. What’s more, Palin has been an ardent supporter of the Exxon Valdez litigants, who would benefit from this earmark. After the Supreme Court slashed the damages Exxon Valdez would have to pay Alaskans — from $2.5 billion to around $500 million — Palin said she was “very, very disappointed” the court slashed Alaskans’ benefits:
It breaks our hearts because it’s been — as former governor Cooper explained — justice delayed being justice denied, for so many. … It’s not right. I don’t think that it is fair. … I am extremely sorry for this decision by the Supreme Court ratcheting down those punitive damages.
In a blog post on the Corner, conservative writer Rich Lowry expressed his incredulity at the earmarks: “Pretty outrageous. Isn’t this in John McCain’s wheelhouse?”