ADJOURNED 'til Monday at 11 a.m. (Informal)
ADJOURNED 'til Monday at 11 a.m. (No Calendar)


By Matt Murphy

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, DEC. 19, 2017.....All three Republicans running for the U.S. Senate would support the GOP tax reform bill that cleared the House Tuesday afternoon and was scheduled for an evening vote in the Senate where both U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey plan to oppose the bill.

The bill, which would shrink the number of tax brackets, reform and eliminate many deductions and exemptions, and reduce the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, has been deeply unpopular among the state's all-Democrat Congressional delegation.

Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, has also expressed his deep concerns with several aspects of the bill, and Secretary of State William Galvin said Tuesday that homeowners in communities like Newton and Brookline would be hurt by the cap on local property tax deductions.

The GOP candidates looking to topple Warren in 2018, however, all said it would be a boon for the Massachusetts economy and taxpayers.

"The tax package is a once in a generation opportunity to bolster the economy and grow jobs," said state Rep. Geoff Diehl, of Whitman.

Diehl blamed Warren for forfeiting her seat at the negotiating table with her early opposition to the bill, and singled out a doubling of the standard deduction as a reform that "paves the way for bigger paychecks."

Businessman John Kingston pointed to a Tax Foundation report that found that middle-income families in Massachusetts would save $794.93 on average, and the state would add 8,350 jobs as a result of the bill becoming law.

"While this final product is far from perfect, it represents a substantive effort to deliver results for all Americans and that is an accomplishment in the political environment we face today," Kingston said.

He added that he supported changes made to the bill to retain the state and local income and property tax deduction with a $10,000 cap and to increase in the child tax credit.

Former state official Beth Lindstrom also said in a statement to the News Service that she would have voted for the bill, if she served in Congress.

"I'm a small business owner who understands the economy and what it takes to create jobs. I support lower taxes for individuals and businesses because it will lead to growth," she said. "This is a fundamental difference I have with Senator Warren -- I believe the private sector does a better job putting money to work to stimulate jobs and investment, and Senator Warren thinks government knows best."

The bill cleared the U.S. House 227-203 Tuesday, with Republicans predicting across-the-board tax cuts for Americans will give a needed jolt to the economy

Democrats said tax breaks for middle class families in the bill will fade away in 2025, asserted that 1 percent of wealthy Americans will eventually receive 83 percent of the tax benefits authorized under the legislation, and predicted Republicans will soon target Medicare for spending reductions because the tax cuts will grow the nation's deficit.

Warren has called the idea that corporate tax breaks will lead to higher wages a "big lie." She wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on Sunday with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders accusing Senate Republican leadership of wanting to "ram through an enormous tax giveaway to the wealthy before seating Doug Jones, Alabama's newly elected Democratic senator."

"The Republican agenda on health care and taxes may be popular with wealthy campaign donors, but it is widely disliked by the American people. It's no wonder why. Despite a booming stock market and record corporate profits, workers in this country are being squeezed by flat wages, soaring household expenses and declining savings. They want Washington to start working for them and to spend tax dollars investing in our future — not bankrupting it," Warren and Sanders wrote.

A Morning Consult/Politico poll released Tuesday showed 44 percent of people polled supported the bill and 35 percent opposed it, but several other major national polls released this week showed stronger opposition than support for the bill among the electorate.

The Congressional Budget Office on Dec. 15 estimated the bill would reduce revenues by about $1.65 trillion and decrease outlays by $194 billion between 2018 and 2027, leading to an increase in the deficit of $1.45 trillion. The estimates "do not incorporate the effects of macroeconomic feedback," according to the CBO, which cited the magnitude of the bill's budgetary effects in concluding a macroeconomic effect estimate was "not practicable ... at this time."

State Senate President Harriette Chandler questioned Congress's focus on getting a tax bill done before the end of the year while other issues have languished, noting on that Twitter that it took just 47 days from the time the tax bill was introduced to Tuesday's voting. "Meanwhile, it's been 81 days since Congress let CHIP expire and put 172,000 children in MA at risk of losing coverage," she wrote.

Unless Congress reauthorizes funding for CHIP before it dries up next month Massachusetts' "legacy of near-universal health insurance coverage" is at stake, House Speaker Robert DeLeo told the state's Congressional delegation this week.

"Without action, the Commonwealth will lose $295 million annually and we will be forced to find other sources of funding to ensure that these children maintain health insurance coverage," DeLeo wrote to the delegation. "With today's economic climate and rising healthcare costs, that will prove challenging."

The program covers 172,000 Bay State children and the state stands to lose an estimated $147.5 million in the fiscal year that concludes at the end of June without reauthorization, and $259 million annually starting in fiscal 2019 if MassHealth maintained the current program, according to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

[Colin A. Young contributed reporting.]


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