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House passes final tax reform bill; Faso votes against partial elimination of SALT deductions

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    U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, voted against the final version of the tax reform bill that both houses of the legislature has been working on the past two months. Faso argued that the provision to partially eliminate the itemized deductions for state and local property, income and general sales taxes.
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    House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) listens as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday. The House began debate on the final $1.5 trillion tax bill Tuesday morning and voted 227-203 to approve the controversial reform package.
December 19, 2017 11:30 pm

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives passed the final version of the tax reform legislation despite opposition from U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, who said he could not vote for the bill because of several provisions he said will be detrimental to New York taxpayers.

The House passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, legislation that was pushed through a reconciliation process the past two months, in a 227-203 vote after key committees from the House and Senate collaborated on the bill and amended it until it won enough votes.

Now the bill moves to the Senate where the Republican leadership expects it to pass in time to land on President Donald Trump’s desk for signing before Christmas.

“I think the bill is a good thing,” said Bill Schaffer, of Hudson. “We need something to get people back to work and bring jobs here. This is [President Ronald Reagan] economics. A poor person is not going to give you a job, wealthy people make the jobs.”

The bill did not win a vote from Faso, who has been critical of the bill for most of the process — he voted against the bill the first time it came up for a vote on the floor of the House — grabbing on to certain provisions in the bill including the elimination of itemized deductions of state and local property, income and general sales taxes.

“From the beginning, I wanted to support a tax reform plan that would increase economic growth, increase worker paychecks, incentivize small business investment and ensure New York families are better off,” Faso said after the vote. “Unfortunately, this plan does not meet all of those criteria, and I will vote against the bill when it comes up for a vote.”

Faso had signed on to a plan he and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of representatives that tries to find compromise on tough legislative issues, while the bill was in conference. The plan was never taken up by the leadership in either house.

“I remain concerned that as a result of the New York’s high income and property taxes, the partial elimination of the SALT deduction effective Jan. 1, impacts New York families more severely than those in other states,” Faso said. “These families have already made financial decisions based on this deduction, and to have it removed without any chance to prepare is unfair.”

The final bill included a provision that wouldn’t completely eliminate the SALT deductions like the Senate originally planned to do, but allows the deduction of the first $10,000.

Faso argued throughout the process that the elimination of the SALT deductions would chase more wealthy people and business owners out of New York as the final straw on top of the state’s already high taxes.

Democrats have consistently called the tax reform legislation a disaster that will hurt working families and help wealthy political donors.

“The Republican tax plan is an abomination — nothing but a massive giveaway to corporations and the wealthiest Americans,” U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said before the vote went through.

Michael Sears, who has a house in Hudson, said the bill subsidizes corporations that should have failed a long time ago.

“It’s the worst piece of legislation that has ever been created,” Sears said. “The only thing this accomplishes is to dilute and destruct the Republican Party.”

Sears said he anticipates that Democrats will use the bill, and what he believes it stands for, in the 2018 elections.

“This is subsidizing corporations,” Sears said. “Never before has there been so much money sitting on a shelf waiting to be invested, but we keep up corporate giants who statistically should have failed by now.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee already started shooting new flak at Faso, who is up for re-election next year, saying that voters will show legislators they made the wrong move in the voting booths.

“When House Republicans say ‘Merry Christmas,’ apparently it’s only to millionaires, billionaires, and large corporations,” said DCCC spokesman Evan Lukaske. “This tax scam is loaded up with special interest loopholes and tax breaks for the wealthiest and biggest corporations, while the middle class in New York gets stuck with higher taxes and coal in their stockings. Americans are making a list, checking it twice, and will hold Faso responsible for this tax scam next November.”

Although he voted against the legislation, Faso defended many of the provisions in it as important to generating economic activity.

“It’s important to recognize that this bill does make positive changes in our tax code that will help American businesses of all sizes and their workers compete in the global economy,” Faso said. “In addition, there will be many families and small businesses in the 19th district that will receive a tax cut under this legislation.”

Faso said he was pleased other provisions that he was concerned about were addressed in the final version of the bill.

“I am pleased that changes I advocated for were made to the medical expense deduction, higher education affordability benefits and private activity bonds in this final version in comparison to the House bill,” Faso said. “Each of these provisions were primary concerns of mine because of their impact on families, students, and local economic development.”

Faso’s potential opponent from Greene County called Faso’s position on the bill “double talk.”

“Faso has once again insulted the intelligence of his constituents with calculated double talk on Monday that praised the irresponsible Republican tax bill while announcing he will be voting against it.” said Brian Flynn, of Hunter, who is looking to become the Democratic candidate to run against Faso next year.

“Faso said he can’t vote for the bill in the same statement in which he made lengthy comments about all the things he likes about the legislation. Sorry, John, you can’t have it both ways.” Flynn said.

A small-business owner and lifelong progressive, Flynn asserted that this is “yet another devious attempt by Faso” to quietly reward big corporations with permanent tax breaks at the expense of hard-working, middle-income families.”