Tax reform: Can Baucus and Hatch make senators eat their spinach?
The Finance Committee's Baucus and Hatch are telling their fellow senators that now's the time to address tax reform, and have set a deadline for colleagues to defend individual tax preferences.
After more than two-thirds of the Senate cheered the passage of an immigration bill last week, a bipartisan duo laid down an important milestone in an even heavier legislative lift: tax reform.Skip to next paragraph
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Sen. Max Baucus (D) of Montana and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah came to the floor only a few minutes after passing the immigration reform bill – a top priority for leaders in both parties – to tell senators it was time, in essence, to eat their spinach.
The two men, the chairman and top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, will build their overhaul of the nation’s tax code on what’s known as the “zero plan,” they said, meaning that all tax breaks in the corporate and personal income laws are, as of now, out – unless lawmakers make the case for them to be put back in.
“We have made tremendous progress and our now entering the home stretch,” said Senator Hatch. “We are here today to call on all of our colleagues to provide their input to help get tax reform over the finish line.”
But to get to the finish line, senators are going to have to stick out their necks: If there’s a tax preference they’d like to defend, they have until July 26 to speak up.
“The senator’s ‘blank slate’ approach places the burden on those who are protecting specific preferences in the code and asks them to explain why they should have a lower tax rate than everyone else. The government should no longer pick winners and losers among industries, and it is our hope that this effort will result in a simplified and fairer tax code,” said Bill Hughes, a senior vice president at the Retail Industry Leader’s Association in a statement.
There are some preferences (like the earned income tax credit for the working poor, perhaps), Senator Baucus noted, that would likely be kept to make sure the code does not increase tax benefits for the rich at the expense of lower income Americans.
“The blank slate is, of course, not the end of the discussion – you don’t clear the decks and stop,” Baucus said. “Some of the provisions in the code serve very important objectives.”