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Small Business Faces Big Bite

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WASHINGTON -- House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled sweeping health-care legislation that would hit all but the smallest businesses with a penalty equal to 8% of payroll if they fail to provide health insurance to workers. The House bill, which also would impose new taxes on the wealthy estimated to bring in more than $500 billion over a decade, came as lawmakers in the Senate raced against a self-imposed Thursday deadline to find ways to finance their health-care bill. Senators are weighing a combination of several more-modest tax increases, including some that would hit health-care industries. Under the House measure, employers with payrolls exceeding $400,000 a year would have to provide health insurance or pay the 8% penalty. Employers with payrolls between $250,000 and $400,000 a year would pay a smaller penalty, and those less than $250,000 would be exempt. The relatively low thresholds for penalties triggered criticism from Republicans, who said the burden on small business is too high. Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said the House bill would "impose massive new taxes and mandates on employers, especially small businesses."