In this Aug. 20, 2020, file photo, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden talks at the top of Black Mountain in Rumford after hiking with the Summit Project. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden told state lawmakers Thursday that congressional Democrats’ multi-trillion dollar budget proposal is poorly targeted and includes too many budget “gimmicks” as he remains one of the few members of his party in the House not supporting the plan.

The Thursday letter gives the clearest picture yet of Golden’s objections to the current bill — which many Democrats see as central to President Joe Biden’s agenda — and comes as lawmakers in Washington continue to debate what will be included in the legislation and how they will pay for it.

Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s swingy 2nd District, criticized several high-profile parts of the proposed legislation in a letter to Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, and other Democrats, including the child tax credit, funding for child care and Medicare expansion.

“In its current form, the draft bill is not sufficiently targeted to working- and middle-class families and makes too frequent use of budget gimmicks, like artificial program sunsets or delayed starts,” Golden wrote.

Little progress on the bill has played out in public in the past few weeks as lawmakers in Washington work to reduce its cost after two Democratic senators indicated they would not support the initially proposed $3.5 trillion. Democrats, who hold narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress, effectively need every vote to pass the bill through the budget reconciliation process without Republican support.

Golden said he supported many of the bill’s contents, including changes to the earned income tax credit and health coverage tax credit, but thought legislation was “not sufficiently targeted” in several areas. He also cited concerns about inflation, saying he did not believe Democrats could “treat taxpayer resources as though they are limitless.”

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Areas where he called for more targeting included the child tax credit, which he noted would be extended to families making up to $400,000 per year, along with subsidies for child care. In both cases, Golden argued, eligibility could be capped at 200 percent of each state’s median income.

He likewise encouraged changes to two incentive programs related to climate change, arguing a benefit for homeowners who made energy efficiency upgrades favored upper-income households while a tax credit for electric vehicle purchases should phase out before the currently proposed income limit of $800,000.

Golden also critiqued a proposal under discussion — though not currently in the bill — to raise or lift the cap on the state and local tax credit, which allows individuals to deduct some state and local tax payments from their income subject to federal taxes. He pointed to an estimate from the Tax Policy Center that repealing the cap would benefit only 1.4 percent of households with incomes of less than $100,000.

The Lewiston Democrat was also critical of the timing of two proposals in the bill, saying the child tax credit should not phase out after 2025 and dental benefits under Medicare should begin before 2028.

He said he supported measures to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and cap out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors, but thought the proposed waiver on premium increases for Medicare Part B recipients would disproportionately benefit higher-income recipients.

The extent to which Democrats may accommodate Golden’s proposed changes remains unclear, as negotiations over the bill have highlighted the different priorities within the party’s caucus. For example, several moderates with whom Golden has been aligned on other issues have argued strongly in favor of the state and local tax credit.

The 2nd District congressman has bucked his party on spending issues before. He was one of two Democrats to object to a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill earlier this year and split with party leadership this summer in calling for a quick vote on a bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Golden, who is a top target for national Republicans next year in a district won twice by former President Donald Trump with former Rep. Bruce Poliquin running in 2022, insisted the ongoing debate was not “centered on topline numbers or based on differing factions within the Democratic caucus.” He added that he was “actively engaged” in discussions with the White House and congressional Democrats about his concerns.

“[T]aken together, addressing these issues would add up to hundreds of billions of dollars,” he wrote. “Just as important, the decisions we make on these issues will shape the federal policy debate for years to come and cement the direction of the Democratic Party.”