Wyoming's Delegation Pushes Hard To Reform The Tax Code

Oct 27, 2017

Senator Bernie Sanders (L) and Senator Mike Enzi (R)
Credit CSPAN

Wyoming’s lawmakers in the nation’s capital are trying to help their party deliver on its promise to overhaul the nation’s tax code.

Wyoming’s senior Senator Mike Enzi took the lead last week as he helped his party take its first steps to tax reform by passing a budget blueprint that allows the GOP to overhaul the tax code without any Democratic support. As chair of the Budget Committee Enzi led the fight to pass the budget on the Senate floor.

“It’s crucial that Congress approve this fiscal framework in order to eliminate the dated and stifling tax policies that are holding back American investments and productivity.”  

The last time lawmakers reformed the tax code was 1986. Enzi says it’s long overdue.

“Just think how much have changed in the country and in the world in these 31 years, including our tax code. America’s tax laws are incredibly complicated, and work to slow our economy and hurt American families. Incredibly our current tax system actually benefits foreign-based companies, while harming U.S. headquartered companies and employers.”  

As chair of the Budget Committee, Enzi squares off against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who Democrats tapped to lead the panel for them. The self-described socialist blasted the GOP proposal that independent analysts report would mean a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans while also meaning more taxes for many in the middle class.

Sanders says it’s the wrong approach.

“The Republican budget is the Robin Hood principle in reverse. Robin Hood took from the rich and gave to the poor. What this budget does is take from working people, the middle-class, the elderly, and the poor, to give massive tax breaks to people who are already living in incredible opulence.”

The GOP budget opens the door for them to cut taxes by as much as one point five trillion dollars over a decade, which even some Republican critics say will cause the deficit to balloon up. For Sanders, it shows the GOP isn’t focused on the most vulnerable Americans.

“The Republicans are now pushing one of the most destructive and unfair budget and tax proposals in the modern history of the United States. A plan that would incalculable harm to tens of millions of working families, our children, the sick, the elderly, and the poor.”  

Enzi disputes that. He says the tax reform package is needed because former President Barack Obama and Democrats never got the nation back on track after the economic collapse that happened under former President George W. Bush.

“I’m proud that Congress and the president are tackling these important issues. After eight years of stagnant growth, it’s clear that our nation needs a simpler, fairer, and more transparent tax system that will leave more dollars in the pockets of our working families.”

The effort to reform taxes is getting more attention after the GOP failed to follow through on their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. That’s partly why Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney says it’s a must-pass effort.

“It’s crucial. It’s crucial for the party, but it’s also crucial for the country and for the economy.”

With Republican leaders still drafting their tax plan, they’re hearing input from every direction as they look to find revenue to pay for it. Cheney says Wyoming fossil fuel companies could be helped out if the GOP stops propping up the renewable industry with tax subsidies.

“What they can’t do is to be asked to compete when the renewable industry has been getting subsidies that have basically kept them alive.”

But Democrats and some Republicans say that should be a non-starter. California Democrat John Garamendi says the GOP is misguided for even considering ending tax breaks for green energy.    

“I’m not surprised that they would be such a stupid thing…the future lies in green technologies, it is the new industry, it is the new opportunity for energy production. One that is cheaper, it’s renewable, but it wouldn’t surprise me.”

But tax reform is hard because every part of the tax code seems to have a team of lobbyists or interest groups lining up to protect their pet deduction. Cheney says that’s exactly why her party needs to simplify the code.

“Part of the reason, why there’re so many different interest groups involved is because the way the tax code is has been developed, we’ve got all the sorts of special interests, the code itself as you know is so complicated that, you know, over the years people have created loopholes and special rules for different circumstances.”

But already Republican leaders seem opposed to President Trump’s call to protect deductions for 401k accounts. But Cheney sides with the president, for now.  

“We’ll see where that comes out. My own personal view is that we ought to be encouraging savings. I think that we ought to allow people to have pre-tax money go into savings. I think that it’s obviously presenting some real concerns if it looks like that there isn’t going to be in there anymore.”

While Republicans are united in wanting to cut taxes, regional disputes over which deductions to keep and which to end are making it challenging to string together all the votes needed in Congress.