Sell­ing out N.Y.

Collins and Reed are firmly on the side of an un­fair and un­af­ford­able tax bill

The Buffalo News - - OPINION -

Reps. Chris Collins and Tom Reed are about to sell New York­ers down the river. They have time to change their minds and join the rest of the state’s del­e­ga­tion – Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic – in op­pos­ing the clat­ter­ing Rube Gold­berg con­trap­tion they call tax re­form. State tax­pay­ers can only hope they will.

Real tax re­form – fair, well considered, af­ford­able – re­mains an im­por­tant goal, but the ver­sions bounc­ing around in the House and Se­nate are none of those things. They were thrown to­gether in haste, with the ap­par­ent goal – if Collins’ com­ments are ac­cu­rate – of pleas­ing high-dol­lar donors.

For New York­ers, though, the plans are es­pe­cially galling. With their at­tacks on the de­ductibil­ity of state in­come taxes, they stand to drive up the taxes that res­i­dents of this state al­ready pay. That will hurt every­one and could drive a stake through the heart of Buf­falo’s eco­nomic re­vival.

What is more, New York­ers are al­ready net donors to the fed­eral trea­sury, send­ing more tax dol­lars to Wash­ing­ton than they ever get back in ben­e­fits or ser­vices. New York’s del­e­ga­tion should be more in­ter­ested in re­bal­anc­ing that equa­tion, or at least en­sur­ing that what is al­ready bad doesn’t be­come worse.

It’s star­tling that these two Repub­li­cans – Collins of Clarence and Reed of Corn­ing – are so slav­ishly de­voted to leg­is­la­tion that will hurt their state. They need to take a mo­ment to con­sider why their col­leagues want noth­ing to do with a mea­sure that hit New York­ers up for even more money.

In­deed, their re­cent ap­proach to their work verges on pat­ri­cide. For months, Collins and Reed have been on a cam­paign that would harm the state. Today, it’s the de­ductibil­ity of state taxes, but only a few weeks ago it was about Med­i­caid fund­ing. If they aren’t on a mis­sion to un­der­mine the state, they’re do­ing what they can to make it seem that way.

Is it be­cause they so dis­like Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo? Would they be do­ing this if Ge­orge Pataki were still gov­er­nor, or if Westchester County Ex­ec­u­tive Rob As­torino had de­feated Cuomo in 2014? Is it about un­der­min­ing Cuomo – a po­ten­tial can­di­date for pres­i­dent – as his re-elec­tion year looms? None of those things counts as good gover­nance or even good con­stituent ser­vice.

The last time the coun­try en­acted se­ri­ous tax re­form was when Ron­ald Rea­gan was pres­i­dent. The 1986 mea­sure, which drew bi­par­ti­san sup­port, was well considered, gen­er­ally fair and – im­por­tantly – rev­enue neu­tral. In­deed, Rea­gan, an ac­tual con­ser­va­tive, threat­ened to veto any bill that wasn’t.

The cur­rent ef­fort is none of those. It was slapped to­gether in se­cret, it is grossly un­fair, it does lit­tle for small busi­nesses and, to top it all off, it would ex­plode the fed­eral bud­get deficit. The non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice es­ti­mates that the House mea­sure would in­crease fed­eral red ink by $1.7 tril­lion over 10 years. Why do that?

It cer­tainly has noth­ing to do with eco­nomic growth. The sup­ply-side the­ory – cut taxes enough and eco­nomic growth will make up for rev­enue losses – has been thor­oughly dis­cred­ited. It didn’t work dur­ing the Rea­gan years and it failed spec­tac­u­larly in Kansas, where the Repub­li­can-con­trolled state leg­is­la­ture re­cently raised taxes to com­pen­sate for the fi­nan­cial dis­as­ter brought on by Gov. Sam Brown­back’s tax cuts.

What is more, the tim­ing is ex­actly wrong. The Amer­i­can econ­omy is boom­ing today. This is the time for Wash­ing­ton to fo­cus on pay­ing down the deficit so that when then next re­ces­sion hits, as it will, the coun­try can then af­ford to run some red ink.

That’s when deficits are nec­es­sary and ap­pro­pri­ate. It’s why the deficit crested the $1 tril­lion thresh­old through much of Barack Obama’s pres­i­dency. The calamity of the Great Re­ces­sion re­quired deficit spend­ing. With­out it, mil­lions more peo­ple would have lost their homes and their jobs.

Even then, con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans com­plained bit­terly about the deficit, though it shrank dra­mat­i­cally as the econ­omy im­proved. They in­sisted upon the fool­ish “se­ques­tra­tion,” meant to force au­to­matic across-the­board bud­get cuts.

So why is it that now, with their party in con­trol of both cham­bers of Congress and a strong econ­omy, the deficit sud­denly doesn’t mat­ter? It’s hard to shake the idea that it has some­thing to do with sat­is­fy­ing the fi­nan­cial lusts of the donor class that has told Collins that he had bet­ter put up if he wants to see any more of their money.

That’s bad enough, but even then it doesn’t re­quire Collins and Reed to sell out their own con­stituents. They need to rec­og­nize that this is a bad bill, pro­duced in an ir­re­spon­si­ble fash­ion.

Tax re­form re­mains an im­por­tant goal, but to do it right, Congress needs to start over, and, un­less these two con­gress­man have an awak­en­ing, they would do their state a fa­vor by stay­ing out of it.

Wash­ing­ton Post

Of course the tax code, shown here as the House worked on its leg­is­la­tion, needs to be sim­pli­fied. But that can’t come at the ex­pense of New York and other states that al­ready dis­pro­por­tion­ately fund the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

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