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New tax bill hailed by state Republicans, slammed as "scam" by Democrats

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Oklahoma's Republican Representatives voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
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OKLAHOMA CITY-- Oklahoma Rep. Steve Russell (OK-5) voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), which passed the House by a margin of 227 to 203 early Wednesday, but opponents are saying he and other Republicans missed out on helping middle-class Americans and instead catered to the wealthy.

The $1.5 trillion package of tax cuts and tax code revisions will return to the House for another vote Wednesday following a procedural glitch in the Senate, but President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill this week.

However, many Congressional Democrats are still unhappy with the tax bill, saying most of the benefits are geared toward the wealthy and to corporations, leaving the middle class and low-income populations with little or no help.

According to Republican Rep. Russell, H.R. 1 would overhaul the tax code to “deliver historic tax relief for workers, families, and job creators and revitalize our nation’s economy.”

He said that by lowering taxes across the board, eliminating special-interest tax breaks and modernizing the international tax system, H.R. I would create more jobs, increase paychecks and make the tax code simpler and fairer.

“This legislation lives up to its name- cutting taxes for individuals, families, and businesses while delivering more jobs and higher wages for the American people,” Russell said in a statement.

“It simplifies our broken tax code, preserving the adoption tax credit for middle-income families and encouraging American businesses to bring offshore investments back home. It also eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty tax, providing families with much-needed relief and and flexibility to buy the health care that’s right for them if they choose to do so.”

Oklahoma 5th District candidate for Congress Kendra Horn slammed Russell’s decision to support the bill, saying that the tax plan only benefits the wealthy and corporations and that many elected officials were unaware of what was actually in the bill.

“Politicians in D.C. like Russell should have used tax reform to focus on mortgage relief, making college more affordable or saving our healthcare system. In other words, he should have helped everyday Oklahomans with regular expenses which ultimately shape our quality of life,” Horn said.

“Instead he sided with Speaker Paul Ryan and D.C. lobbyists, who know nothing about Oklahoma, to help shove a tax scam through Congress that benefits the wealthy. Russell had a chance to make a difference, and he fumbled the opportunity.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said after the passage of the bill that that Americans would see immediate relief, despite the naysayers.
“After years of work, we are going to enact the most sweeping, pro-growth overhaul of our tax code in a generation. Americans are going to see relief almost immediately in the form of bigger paychecks and lower taxes,” he said.

Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04), who also supported the 227-203 vote, said Americans would see increases to their tax standard deductions.

“Under this reform, the standard deduction most Americans use is doubled – to $12,000 and $24,000 for individuals and married couples, respectively. The additional child tax credit is increased to $2000, and becomes fully refundable up to $1400 and phases out for families making over $400,000,” Cole said. “Further, to benefit all individual filers, the top rate for each bracket is lowered. Most American will receive a tax cut.”

Supporters also say businesses could see a major tax reduction with the corporate tax rate dropping from 35 percent to 21 percent.

“After substantial debate over the legislation, my colleagues on the Conference Committee were able to effect significant improvements and changes in the original House bill. To point out a few, the medical expense deduction was retained and the mortgage interest deduction will be allowed on home purchases below $750,000,” he said.

“No tax reform bill is perfect and there are features in the current legislation which I will work to improve. However, on balance, this legislation is good news for most taxpayers and American businesses. It will lower taxes, promote faster economic growth and add more jobs.

Democrats labeled the bill as a White House “tax scam” and slammed its passage by calling it a way to create a “permanent plutocracy."

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also slammed the bill following a non-partisan Tax Policy Center analysis of the GOP tax conference report:

“The final draft of the GOP tax scam is the most shameless and brazen theft of them all.  According to non-partisan analysis, Republicans’ final bill will raise taxes on a breathtaking 86 million middle-class households and hand 83 percent of the benefits to the wealthiest one percent.  By the end, more than half of all American households will pay higher taxes under the Republican bill,” Pelosi said.

“The GOP tax bill will go down as one of the most scandalous, obscene acts of plutocracy ever.”

Russell, however, said doing nothing would have been worse.

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is exactly what our country needs to get back on track,” Russell said. “By doing nothing, we will continue to see our economy worsen and trillions added to the deficit. By taking our country in an entirely different direction through these tax cuts and reforms, we have a chance to let Americans enjoy more of the fruit of their own labor.”

 

Major tenets of the bill include:

●       The bill reduces five rates while keeping seven tax brackets the same. The rates, which start at 10 percent, now rise to 12, 22, 24, 32, 35 and 37 percent. The 37 percent bracket for those with income over $500,000 is lowered from 39.6 percent.

●       In 2019, the  Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is eliminated.

●       The bill eliminates the secondary alternative minimum tax rate for corporations, but raises the exemption for individuals to $500,000 and for married couples to $1 million.

●       Taxpayers can now claim $2,000 tax credit for each qualifying child under the age of 17

●       Estate tax remains at 40 percent but doubles the exemption levels.

●       The bill allows families to deduct up to $10,000 for local property, state and local income taxes.

●       The mortgage-interest rate deduction will be available for mortgages up to $750,000 instead of $1 million.

●       Student loan interest deductions remain the same and tuition waivers for graduate students remain tax-free.

●       The new tax bill allows taxpayers to deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent their adjusted gross income.

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Heide Brandes

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