Elec­tions buoy tax bill fight

Democrats hope­ful boost helps mo­ti­vate take­down of GOP plan

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Freed­man

WASHINGTON — Feel­ing the po­lit­i­cal wind at their backs ar­guably for the first time in five years, Con­necti­cut’s Demo­cratic law­mak­ers basked in the glow of Demo­cratic elec­toral vic­to­ries and pre­dicted a mo­men­tum shift against the GOP tax bill.

“The high level of turnout is a clear sig­nal to our Repub­li­can friends they are fac­ing an en­er­gized elec­torate that un­der­stands how cruel and mis­guided Pres­i­dent Trump’s poli­cies are,” said Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal. “It’s what en­abled us to de­feat Repub­li­can ‘re­peal-and-re­place’ health care, and it’s the same sense of out­rage that will ul­ti­mately en­able us to de­feat the tax plan.”

In an off-year elec­tion where turnout gen­er­ally is a prob­lem for Democrats, party can­di­dates hand­ily de­feated Repub­li­cans in key gu­ber­na­to­rial races in Vir­ginia and New Jer­sey.

Con­necti­cut made its own con­tri­bu­tion to the Demo­cratic sweep, said Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

“Last night’s elec­tions in Con­necti­cut are fur­ther proof that Con­necti­cut vot­ers and tax­pay­ers are fed up with what is hap­pen­ing in Washington, D.C.” she said. “Across our state, Democrats flipped 18 may­ors’ of­fices and town coun­cils. Peo­ple are en­gaged, and they are fight­ing back against the Trump-Ryan agenda — in­clud­ing their lat­est tax-cut give­away to mil­lion­aires, bil­lion­aires and cor­po­ra­tions that will raise taxes on the mid­dle class.”

“Vot­ers and tax­pay­ers are fed up ... and they are fight­ing back.” Rep. Rosa DeLauro

On Wed­nes­day, Repub­li­cans showed lit­tle in­ter­est in scal­ing back the di­men­sions of their tax bill, which would con­sol­i­date seven brack­ets into four, re­duce the cor­po­rate tax rate from 35 per­cent to 20 per­cent, phase out the estate tax and dou­ble the stan­dard de­duc­tion to $24,000 per mar­ried cou­ple and $12,000 per in­di­vid­ual.

House Speaker Paul Ryan sug­gested the elec­toral losses were at­trib­ut­able in part to GOP fail­ure to get its agenda signed into law.

“We’ve got a prom­ise to keep,” Ryan said Wed­nes­day. “We’ve got to get out and win our prom­ise.”

In pass­ing a bud­get that set up the GOP tax-bill de­bate, Repub­li­cans agreed to a $1.5 tril­lion tax cut that would have to be off­set by tax rev­enues at the end of a decade. For that rea­son, Repub­li­cans are search­ing for can­cel­la­tion of tax breaks, many of which are pop­u­lar with the public.

Among them: Tax cred­its for adop­tion, ren­o­vat­ing his­toric build­ings, busi­ness and in­dus­trial training and can­cel­la­tion of the de­duc­tion for large out-of-pocket med­i­cal ex­penses.

Blu­men­thal char­ac­ter­ized the elim­i­na­tion of the adop­tion credit as par­tic­u­larly cruel.

“It’s a mat­ter of sim­ple hu­man­ity,” he said. “For a fam­ily that wants to open its home and heart to a child who needs them, why elim­i­nate that de­duc­tion? Where is your heart?”

The el­e­ment of the GOP mea­sure with the great­est im­pact in Con­necti­cut may well be loss of the state and lo­cal tax de­duc­tion — SALT, for short.

Un­der the GOP mea­sure be­fore the House, prop­er­ty­tax de­duc­tions would be capped at $10,000 and state in­come tax pay­ments would not be de­ductible at all.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have in­sisted that, when all the fea­tures of the tax bill are taken into ac­count, tax­pay­ers in Con­necti­cut and other states who now de­pend on the SALT de­duc­tion will come out ahead.

In ad­di­tion, Repub­li­cans es­ti­mate that the cor­po­rate tax de­duc­tion would yield an av­er­age $4,000 for tax­pay­ers, and that a fam­ily of four earn­ing $59,000 would get a tax cut of $1,182.

DeLauro, Blu­men­thal and other state Democrats have con­sis­tently char­ac­ter­ized the bill as a give­away to the wealthy at the ex­pense of the mid­dle class, with elim­i­na­tion of SALT as the mar­quee el­e­ment for high-tax states like Con­necti­cut.

Loss of SALT as well as an­other el­e­ment of the GOP plan —cap­ping mort­gage in­ter­est on new home loans at $500,000 —would hurt the Con­necti­cut hous­ing market, a spokes­woman for the state’s main home­builder as­so­ci­a­tion said.

“It could tip us into re­ces­sion,” said Joanne Car­roll, spokes­woman for the Home Builders and Re­mod­el­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Con­necti­cut, not­ing that a mid­dle-class home in the state ac­tu­ally is in the price range of $750,000 to $2 mil­lion. “It re­ally is very dis­turb­ing.”

The GOP’s Se­nate ver­sion re­port­edly does away with the SALT de­duc­tion en­tirely, with no $10,000 prop­erty-tax sweet­ener.

A spokes­woman for the state’s ma­jor hospi­tal as­so­ci­a­tion ques­tioned the wis­dom of elim­i­nat­ing the de­duc­tion for costly out-of­pocket med­i­cal ex­penses.

“We are con­cerned that pa­tients who use this de­duc­tion will suf­fer as a re­sult of this elim­i­na­tion,” said El­iz­a­beth Hamil­ton, spokesman for the Con­necti­cut Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion.” Tax re­form should not come at the ex­pense of the sick­est and most vul­ner­a­ble among us.”

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