Hassan criticizes GOP tax plan while her plan gains little ground

  • U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., made several stops in the area upon her return to New Hampshire, following her first two months in the Senate. Geoff Hansen / Valley News file

For the Monitor
Thursday, November 30, 2017

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan called the Republican-authored federal tax overhaul a “travesty,” but her own proposal to lower taxes for middle-class families has gotten little traction.

No Democrats or Republicans have signed on to legislation she filed in September to give a $500 tax credit to individuals making less than $100,000 a year. Typically, lawmakers seek out co-sponsors to help push their priorities along.

As a candidate, Hassan touted a plan to cut taxes for middle-income families by slashing subsidies for oil companies and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. The current GOP tax plan is a massive overhaul that promises to lower the tax rate for corporations and temporarily for the middle class.

Hassan said she plans to offer an amendment to the tax bill when it comes up for a vote to make middle-class tax cuts permanent, she said. But such an amendment from a Democrat is unlikely to get through the Republican-majority U.S. Senate.

Hassan argued that Republican senators assembled their bill behind closed doors and didn’t allow a “process at all by which anybody could offer amendments.”

But if the GOP tax plan eventually fails, Hassan said, she hopes Democrats and Republicans in Congress can work together.

“If the Republicans would actually have regular order and start the traditional Senate process of drafting a bill, having hearings on it, of getting input from citizens, from business owners, from experts, there is real interest in reforming the tax code,” Hassan said in an interview Wednesday with the Monitor, hours before the GOP tax bill cleared its first hurdle on the Senate floor.

“There are a lot of us who believe that if we did this the right way, and listened to our constituents and focused on the middle class and small businesses, we could get 60 or 70 votes for this,” Hassan added.

As Hassan made a plea for bipartisan efforts for tax reform, she was outspoken in her criticism of the GOP bill.

“It’s a huge windfall for the wealthy and corporate special interests and it hurts working and middle-class families,” she said.

“It hurts New Hampshire property tax payers. It hurts New Hampshire homeowners. It increases New Hampshire citizens’ health insurance premiums on the individual market by 10 percent a year while making health insurance less available to many of our people,” she said. “This is a bad bill.”

With all 48 senators in the Democratic caucus opposing the bill, the Republican majority can afford only two defections among its 52 members to pass the measure.

The current proposal would permanently lower the corporate tax rate, temporarily lower individual rates across the middle class and would drastically reshape the country’s tax code.

The measure would significantly raise the current standard deduction but would eliminate personal exemptions. It would repeal the state and local tax deduction, expand the child tax credit, repeal the alternative minimum tax, and exempt almost everybody from the estate tax.

It would also repeal the individual mandate to buy health insurance, as dictated by Obamacare. Some estimates say the bill is expected to drain some $1.5 trillion from the federal treasury over 10 years, adding to the deficit.

Hassan’s successor in the corner office of the State House, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, voiced optimism about the tax bill. Sununu, who was in Washington on Wednesday, said he discussed the bill with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House.

“I’m supportive of the bill. I think there are very good things in there. If you look at the state tax deductions, that actually puts New Hampshire in a much more favorable position because we don’t have a whole lot of state taxes,” Sununu told Granite State reporters on a conference call.

“On the whole, it is a very positive thing for the country to take this step,” Sununu added. “It doesn’t mean that every single person is necessarily going to come out a winner on every single aspect of their taxes, but at the end of the day this will be a net positive for the majority of low- and middle-income families in this country.”

“A lot of these deductions that are being removed are being replaced with other benefits and tax breaks on the other side,” Sununu explained.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen didn’t agree and said she plans to speak out against the legislation on the Senate floor. Last week, she told the Monitor that “this is a tax plan that’s going to undermine middle-class families. It’s not going to give them the tax breaks that they need.”