US & World

Senator Barbara Boxer wants to tax Wall Street bonuses

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer at a press conference in the Capitol.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer at a press conference in the Capitol.
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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Seven of the financial firms that received federal bailout money paid out $31 billion in employee bonuses in 2008. California’s junior senator wants to tax those bonuses.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer joined fellow Democrat Jim Webb of Virginia to introduce a bill that would tax bonuses at financial firms that received $5 billion or more from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Boxer says the government would impose a 50 percent fee on bonuses over $400,000. That’s the equivalent of Barack Obama’s salary.

"So if you get a bonus that is more than the president of the United States makes," she says, "you have to pay this Taxpayer Fairness Fee."

Boxer says Washington can use the extra infusion of cash. She estimates about $10 billion could be raised from the fee at a time when Washington is looking for deficit reduction. "It’s symbolic," she says, "but it’s also real."

Last year, the House passed a similar measure that taxed those bonuses at the 90 percent level. That measure stalled in the Senate.

Boxer says she’s seeking co-sponsors for her bill. She’d like to attach it as an amendment to what she calls a “moving legislative vehicle.” Translation: some other financial bill that’s moving through the Senate.