Democratic leaders are already making promises that the future of the alternative minimum tax will be the focus of the debate over next year's budget, according to published reports.

According to the Washington Post, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the presumptive chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, and House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., both said the AMT will be a tax policy priority in the next year.

Fixing the AMT has already been a top priority for Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who is in line to head the Senate Finance Committee. Baucus co-authored a bill to repeal the tax with Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, this year.

Congress has taken to patching the AMT one year at a time, usually by increasing the exemption amount. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, next year the patch will cost about $50 billion and hold the number of affected taxpayers at close to the 4 million taxpayers affected this year. Without a patch, about 23 million households would be affected by the AMT next year.

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