HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut’s tax collector, Kevin Sullivan, told U.S. Rep. John B. Larson Monday that the tax reform proposals making their way through Congress are “fundamentally flawed” and will have a big impact on most Connecticut taxpayers.
“Contrary to all the talk of a ‘middle income tax cut,’ the plan actually represents a huge windfall to the very wealthiest federal taxpayers and is truly regressive,” Sullivan wrote. “For our own state of Connecticut, over 75 percent of the tax cut goes to the top 1% who would pay 8.5% less on average. Everyone else would see a trivial 1.2% reduction in federal tax liability and many will actually owe much more in federal income taxes.”
Sullivan was preaching to the choir.
Larson, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, spent most of last week trying to change the Republican proposal that seems to be speeding toward a vote.
The lone Connecticut representative on the tax-writing committee, Larson was at times loud and angry in condemning both the process and the final product that would eliminate many of the itemized deductions taken by more than 700,000 tax filers in Connecticut — including those for medical expenses, student loans, and state and local taxes.
“This is theater, and that is all this is today is theater,” Larson complained on day one. “Without a hearing you’re going to proceed with this great charade.”
Larson stood last week with the entire Congressional delegation at the Hartford Public Library and asked for the public’s help in rallying against the proposals.
He said the proposal represents the largest regional shift of money from one part of the country to another.
His point was that northeastern states with high property tax burdens will lose under the proposal because they won’t be able to deduct their state or local tax burden on their federal taxes.
The Government Finance Officers Association says 41 percent of Connecticut filers claimed the deduction in 2015 with an average write off of $19,664.
A vote on the proposal in the House could be raised as early as Thursday. The Senate would follow and the bill could get to Republican President Donald Trump’s desk before Christmas.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said she believes Republicans, based on the results of the election last Tuesday, should be scared for their re-election if they eventually approve the legislation.
She suggested that Connecticut residents reach out to their friends and family across the country to oppose the Republican-led effort to change the tax code.
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty recommended tweeting at the White House about the issue.
“This is a White House that is highly attuned” to social media, Esty said. “I’m serious. We all have one vote.”
She suggested contacting the leadership of the House and the Senate who need to answer to the American people and not just the voters in their districts.
She said unlike with the healthcare debate and repeal and replace, which failed in the Senate after passing the House, a lot of people have somebody else figure out their taxes so they’re one step removed from the process already.
“It seems really complicated,” Esty said. “That’s part of why the job is a little harder now.”
She said voters can’t believe the Republican talking points that it’s “good for the middle class.”
But that depends on the definition of good.
In 2027, the Joint Committee on Taxation report suggests those earning $1 million or more would get an average tax cut of about $37,264, while middle-income people who earn between $50,000 to $75,000 would receive an average tax cut of $753.
The Connecticut delegation also worries that the $1.5 trillion it adds to the national debt will be made up in the future with spending cuts to programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
The other part of the reason Connecticut’s delegation is so worked up about the issue is process.
Esty said in 1986 — the last time the tax code was changed — the House held 42 committee hearings and interviewed 450 witnesses over about 30 days. She said at the moment it’s been four days of committee hearings and zero witnesses.
“Does that sound like the way we should be making massive changes that affect every family in America?” Esty said.