The Washington Times - March 7, 2011, 12:34PM

As the U.S. Senate heads for votes this week on competing spending plans for the rest of the year, Sen. Bernie Sanders said Congress also must raise additional revenue to reduce deficits. His solution: tax millionaires and eliminate tax breaks for oil companies.

“It would be morally wrong for the United States to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our society while asking nothing from the wealthiest,” the outspoken Vermont independent said.

While there is widespread agreement on the need to reduce the $14 trillion national debt and $1.6 trillion deficit, he said budget cuts must be offset with new revenue collected “in a fair and economically just way.”

Sanders suggested an emergency 5.4 percent surtax on adjusted gross incomes of Americans earning more than $1 million, which he estimated would raise as much as $50 billion a year.

Sanders also wants to end tax breaks for big oil and gas companies. The five largest U.S. oil companies earned almost $1 trillion in profits the past decade, yet some paid nothing in federal income taxes, the senator said. Ending those tax breaks could raise at least $3.5 billion a year, he said.

“Unfortunately, until now, virtually the entire debate in Washington has focused only on cutting federal programs,” he said. “Many of the cuts being proposed will have a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our nation — including seniors, children, the sick and the poor.”