The other day I opened an email and there was an article by Chris Fitzsimons blasting away at the General Assembly, saying Republicans had cut taxes on the rich and raised taxes on the poor. By now, Chris has said Republican-Tax-Plan-Helps-Rich so often the words must have a permanent place on his clipboard.
Then I opened another email and saw something you don’t see every day. A newsletter from a member of the State House crowing about how he and other House members had whipped the Senate in the tussle over tax reform. And he had a point. The House did win.
Now, at first glance, those two emails may not even seem connected. But they are.
Because, in a way, when the House whipped the Senate, it handed Fitzsimon the ammunition for his broadside.
Here’s what happened: Bob Rucho is the leading ‘Tax Reformer’ in the Senate. And he carefully wrote a tax bill that cut taxes on low income people the most. Let’s use a married couple as an example: Currently no couple pays taxes on the first $15,000 they earn. Senator Rucho increased that tax exemption a lot. By $2,500 to $17,500. Which clearly helped low income families. Because more families would pay no taxes at all. Plus, all families, including low income families, would pay less income tax.
Senator Rucho also cut the income tax rate. Another tax cut for everyone. But he increased sales taxes. A tax increase on everyone that folks like Chris Fitzsimon are quick to say hits low income families hardest.
At the end of the day, when all was said and done Senator Rucho’s plan cut taxes a net of $646 million over the biennial – with the tax cuts skewed toward giving low income families the most tax relief.
But when the bill went over to the House, Representative Saine and friends didn’t agree with the Senate at all. They did keep the cut in the income tax rate. But then they raised fees $200 million (which hits low income people hardest), allowed full deductions for medical expenses and charitable deductions (which helps wealthier people more) and threw in another tax break that helped wealthy developers renovate older buildings.
Then, finally, they reduced Senator Rucho’s $17,500 personal tax exemption to $15,500. Which tilted the whole playing field. They’d raised fees. And increased sales taxes. But taken out almost all of the tax reduction that helped low income families the most.
Representative Saine has every right to crow. The House did have the final word on Tax Reform. But wouldn’t it be nice if, just once, after passing a tax bill, we didn’t have to listen to folks like Chris Fitzsimon wailing that Republicans cut taxes on the rich and raised taxes on the poor.