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Tax bill

President Donald Trump, center, walks with Sen. John Barrasso, left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Tuesday as he arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington.


Wyoming U.S. Sen. John Barrasso said he does not believe an official analysis of the GOP tax plan that found it would fail to stimulate the economic growth anticipated by Republican leaders.

An analysis Wednesday by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation found that the bill would add $1 trillion to the deficit.

That pushed at least one Republican senator, Bob Corker of Tennessee, to oppose the legislation. But Barrasso dismissed the JCT’s analysis.

“Oh, that’s the one that doesn’t believe that there’s going to be economic growth?” Barrasso asked a reporter from Vox News. “Yeah, I ignore that.”

Barrasso spokesman Bronwyn Lance Chester said that Barrasso believed the analysis was “wildly pessimistic.”

Chester pointed to the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, who have projected 3 to 5 percent economic growth as a result of the tax plan and to an analysis by the right-leaning Tax Foundation, which argued the JCT’s projects were too conservative.

Wyoming’s senior Sen. Mike Enzi, meanwhile, said the JCT projections likely underestimated the benefits of the tax plan.

Bill expected to pass

Republicans used a burst of eleventh-hour horse-trading Friday to edge a $1.4 trillion tax bill to the brink of Senate passage. The party, starved all year for a major legislative triumph, took a giant step toward giving President Donald Trump one of his top priorities by Christmas.

The bill was expected to pass late Friday with the support of Barrasso and Enzi. Rep. Liz Cheney, the third member of Wyoming’s all-Republican Congressional delegation, supported the House version of the bill.

The bill hit rough waters Thursday after the Joint Taxation panel concluded it would worsen federal shortfalls by $1 trillion over a decade, even when factoring in economic growth that lower taxes would stimulate.

Trump administration officials and many Republicans have insisted the bill would pay for itself by stimulating the economy. But the sour projections stiffened resistance from some deficit-averse Republicans.

After bargaining that stretched into Friday morning, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and other leaders said victory was assured in a chamber they control 52-48. Facing unyielding Democratic opposition, Republicans could lose no more than two GOP senators and prevail with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.

Under the changes leaders agreed to, millions of companies whose owners pay individual, not corporate, taxes on their profits would be allowed deductions of 23 percent, up from 17.4 percent. That helped win over GOP Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Steve Daines of Montana.

People would be allowed to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes, a demand of Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. That matched a House provision that chamber’s leaders included to keep some GOP votes from high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California.

Collins, a moderate and frequent maverick who opposed her party’s Obamacare repeal drive, said she’d back the tax bill.

The changes added more than $300 billion to the tax bill’s costs. To pay for that, leaders agreed to reduce the number of high-earners who must pay the alternative minimum tax, rather than completely erasing it.

Deficit concerns

Corker appeared to be the lone Republican holdout, continuing to cite the increase to the federal deficit, which has long been a concern of GOP lawmakers.

“Obviously I’m kind of a dinosaur on the fiscal issues,” said Corker, who battled to keep the measure from worsening the government’s accumulated $20 trillion in IOUs.

Both Barrasso and Enzi have long raised alarms about the deficit and faulted former President Barack Obama and Democratic politicians.

“Washington’s deficit is going to be 35 percent higher this year than it was last year,” Barrasso said, while railing against Democratic policies in a speech last year.

Enzi, too, has frequently attacked Democrats for failing to rein in the federal deficit created during the administration of President George W. Bush during the early aughts and increased during Obama’s two terms.

“Most people in this country realize that the best medicine for a nation with an extreme debt problem is to cut spending, limit how much we spend in the future and balance the budget,” Enzi said in a 2011 statement.

Spokesman Max D’Onofrio said that Enzi believed the JCT estimate “likely underestimates the economic benefit the tax form plan would provide.” D’Onofrio said that the federal budget Enzi helped draft earlier this year led to a balanced budget by 2027 even taking into account lost revenue from tax cuts.

Overall, the Senate bill would drop the highest personal income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 38.5 percent. The estate tax levied on a few thousand of the nation’s largest inheritances would be narrowed to affect even fewer.

In addition to raising the deficit, the JCT found that the bill’s reductions for many families would be modest and said by 2027, families earning under $75,000 would on average face higher, not lower, taxes.

The non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic policy found that 66,800 taxpayers in Wyoming would pay more taxes in 2027. The group also estimated that 70.7 percent of the tax cuts received by residents would go to the richest 1 percent of Wyomingites, who would see their tax bill drop by $180,000 while the bottom 80 percent would receive reductions of between $100 and $1,100.

Deductions for state and local income taxes, moving expenses and other items would vanish, the standard deduction — used by most Americans — would nearly double to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples, and the per-child tax credit would grow.

The bill would abolish the “Obamacare” requirement that most people buy health coverage or face tax penalties. Industry experts say that would weaken the law by easing pressure on healthier people to buy coverage, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said the move would push premiums higher and leave 13 million additional people uninsured.

It would also explicitly let parents buy tax-advantaged 529 college savings accounts for fetuses, a step they can already take but which anti-abortion forces hailed as a victory by inscribing that right into law.

Well into Friday afternoon, changes were still being made to the bill, which represents the largest change to the American tax code in decades, including handwritten notes scrawled into the margins of the legislation being circulated among lawmakers and distributed on social media by Democratic lawmakers frustrated with the lack of transparency.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


State Politics Reporter

Arno Rosenfeld covers state politics including the Legislature and Wyoming’s D.C. delegation, focusing especially on the major issues facing the Cowboy State like economic diversification and what it means to be the most conservative state in the nation.

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