Trump aims tax over­haul pitch at truck­ers

The Mercury News - - News - By Cather­ine Lucey and Josh Boak

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pitched his tax plan as a boost for truck­ers at an event Wed­nes­day in Penn­syl­va­nia, say­ing, “Amer­ica first means putting Amer­i­can truck­ers first.”

Trump ap­peared be­fore about 1,000 cheer­ing peo­ple at an air­plane hangar dra­mat­i­cally draped with Amer­i­can flags. Two big rigs were in the back­ground.

“It will be rocket fuel for our econ­omy,” Trump said of a plan that would dra­mat­i­cally cut cor­po­rate tax rates from 35 per­cent to 20 per­cent, re­duce the num­ber of per­sonal in­come tax brack­ets and boost the stan­dard de­duc­tion.

Trump said a cut to busi­ness taxes would help truck­ers be­cause there will be “more prod­ucts to de­liver and more con­tracts to fill.” He also said his plan would ben­e­fit mid­dle-class fam­i­lies by low­er­ing rates, cre­at­ing new jobs and mak­ing it eas­ier for busi­ness own­ers to pass com­pa­nies on to their chil­dren.

“So many peo­ple have come up to me and said give it to the mid­dle class, give it to peo­ple who need it,” Trump said.

Trump is div­ing back into the tax fight af­ter weeks in which his at­ten­tion has shifted to rapidly emerg­ing crises — in­clud­ing the mass shoot­ing in Las Ve­gas and the hur­ri­cane re­cov­ery ef­fort in Puerto Rico — as well as dra­mas of his own mak­ing, such as his es­ca­lat­ing feud with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and pub­lic ten­sion with Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son.

Taxes are the chief leg­isla­tive pri­or­ity for Repub­li­cans hun­gry for a ma­jor leg­isla­tive achieve­ment. With the 2018 cam­paign year loom­ing, GOP law­mak­ers want some­thing to show for their time as the ma­jor­ity party, and tax leg­is­la­tion re­mains their best hope.

Trump has left it up to Con­gress to fill in many specifics of his plan, which omits de­tails such as the in­come lev­els for his new tax brack­ets. The outreach to truck­ers in Penn­syl­va­nia is an at­tempt to give a bluecol­lar ap­peal to a frame­work that out­side tax an­a­lysts say would largely fa­vor the wealthy.

About two-thirds of truck­ing firms are struc­tured as small busi­nesses in which the prof­its dou­ble as the own­ers’ in­come, what’s com­monly known as “pass-through” com­pa­nies, said Chris Spear, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tions.

The plan would cut the tax rate for th­ese firms to 25 per­cent from 39.6 per­cent.

“It’s pretty crit­i­cal for our mem­ber­ship,” Spear said.

But the lib­eral Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties said few truck­ers would ben­e­fit from this pref­er­en­tial rate be­cause the ma­jor­ity of truck driv­ers are em­ploy­ees rather than pass-through busi­ness own­ers, based on its anal­y­sis of Cen­sus data.

Trump hailed truck­ers as a barom­e­ter for the na­tion’s econ­omy, and praised them as un­sung he­roes.

“You’re go­ing to make more money. You’re go­ing to do bet­ter than ever be­fore. And we truly ad­mire you. You are our he­roes, be­lieve me,” he told them. “You are our he­roes.”

Repub­li­cans in Con­gress aren’t solidly be­hind Trump, with some from high-tax states balk­ing be­cause the frame­work calls for elim­i­nat­ing the fed­eral de­duc­tion for state and lo­cal taxes. That de­duc­tion is claimed by an es­ti­mated 44 mil­lion peo­ple and costs the govern­ment an es­ti­mated $1.3 tril­lion in lost rev­enue over 10 years.

ALEX BRAN­DON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks about tax re­form Wed­nes­day, at Har­ris­burg In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Mid­dle­town, Pa., with a big rig fram­ing the podium.

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