James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/16/2010 09:14:33 PM PST

Voting until nearly midnight eastern time, the House of Representatives on Thursday approved a tax plan that keeps income tax rates in place, extends unemployment benefits and offers a temporary cut in payroll taxes.

Approved by a 277-148 vote, the plan will put money in the pockets of most American workers and give new tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. The plan was approved by the Senate on Tuesday and will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The average San Bernardino County family stands to gain somewhere in the range of $1,350 this year because of the year-long cut in the Social Security payroll tax. That cut will increase workers’ take-home pay by about 2 percent of their total taxable income.

If the bill or a similar provision hadn’t passed, many working families would have paid higher income taxes in 2011 and millions would be left without unemployment benefits over the next few months.

The plan had bipartisan support, with most members of both parties voting in favor. Republicans largely voted in favor, but Democrats were deeply divided, with 139 in favor and 112 against the plan.

It was not clear Thursday night how Inland Empire lawmakers voted, but local Republicans had earlier offered the plan at least partial support while the area’s sole Democrat had said he could not support it.

The plan, a compromise reached by Obama and some Republican congressional leaders, would extend income tax cuts approved in 2001 and 2003, lower the tax rate paid on multi-million-dollar estates, make more multi-million-dollar estates exempt from taxes and extend federal unemployment benefits.

“This is bad policy, plain and simple,” Rep. Joe Baca, D-San Bernardino, said last week after the details of the tax plan were announced. “I support extending jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. But extending these high-end tax cuts will not create any new jobs or stimulate economic growth, and will add $700 billion to our national deficit.”

Baca said the plan would lead to cuts later on.

“I cannot support a compromise that will lead to more cuts down the road for important social programs, including programs that benefit America’s underserved families and children, and our vulnerable senior citizens,” he said.

Rep. Gary Miller, R-Brea, who also represents Chino and Chino Hills, said last week that he supported the biggest part of the plan: extending the tax cuts made in 2001 and 2003.

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