Southwest Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler is leaning toward voting for House Republicans’ sweeping tax overhaul later this week, her office said Tuesday. But with a vote scheduled for Thursday, she still hasn’t made up her mind.
It’s the most consequential vote the 3rd District Republican will take since she opposed House Republicans’ plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act earlier this summer.
“Jaime is encouraged by what she’s discovered so far about the U.S. House’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and its potential for bringing relief to Southwest Washington taxpayers, small businesses, and middle-income families,” spokeswoman Angie Riesterer said Tuesday in a statement to The Daily News. “Jaime will continue to carefully review the details of the tax cuts package to ensure the sum of all parts will ease the burden on hardworking residents in Southwest Washington.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee sent a 15-page letter to the state’s congressional delegation Tuesday urging members to oppose the bill. And Washington’s two Democratic senators condemned similar legislation moving through the Senate.
The Republican tax plans would either be a boon for the middle class or raise taxes on hardworking families while slashing taxes for the richest Americans — depending on which lawmakers’ experts you believe.
“It is clear this plan will be damaging to Washington in numerous ways, including hiking taxes on middle-class families, exacerbating homelessness, harming workers’ retirement security, worsening student debt, and more,” Inslee wrote in his letter to the delegation.
In its statement, Herrera Beutler’s office cited a House Ways and Means Committee estimate that a family of four in Southwest Washington making roughly $84,000 a year would save nearly $2,000 annually under the plan.
The statement also pointed to an analysis by the Tax Foundation, an independent policy group, which found that the plan would expand the economy by an additional 3.6 percent over 10 years. The same analysis projected that the the plan would create 21,875 jobs in Washington over 10 years and save middle-class families in the state $3,094 over that span.
For context, Washington’s economy added 7,200 jobs last year, according to the state Employment Security Department.
In his letter, Inslee’s office detailed a wide range of concerns with both House and Senate tax bills.
Inslee highlighted a report by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimating that nearly 50 percent of the financial benefits of the House bill would go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers. Additionally, 31 percent of middle-class families nationwide would actually see an increase in tax burdens, the analysis found.
Inslee also cited an initial estimate from the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation that found a similar bill in the Senate would increase taxes on more than 21 million middle-class households. Meanwhile, the legislation would give 78 percent of millionaires a tax cut, the committee calculated.
On Tuesday, Senate Republicans also decided to add a provision that would repeal the individual mandate requiring people to buy health insurance, which would effectively gut the ACA, also known as Obamacare.
Inslee specifically noted that the House plan would eliminate the state and local sales tax deduction (known as SALT). More than 800,000 Washington taxpayers claimed the SALT deduction for sales tax payments in 2015, with an average savings of $2,600, the letter said. About 85 percent of all SALT claimants in Washington are middle-income, according to ESD.
Inslee had previously called on Herrera Beutler to oppose any proposed elimination of SALT during a visit to Vancouver last month.
Inslee also expressed concern that the plan would repeal personal deductions for medical expenses, student loan debt, tuition assistance and teachers’ classroom supplies.
In another statement, Herrera Beutler’s office fired back at Inslee’s critique.
“Given that the governor was out attacking the tax cut plan before it was even released, it’s unclear that he’s actually read it. If he did, then he’s intentionally leaving out the thousand of dollars hardworking Southwest Washington families stand to keep or see added to their paychecks if these tax cuts are signed into law,” Riesterer wrote.
In response, Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee reiterated that the vast majority of the plan’s benefits will fall upon the wealthy.
“It is clear that the vast majority of benefits in the bill favor special interests and the super wealthy, with very little left for the middle class. Despite this current proposal, it is possible to craft policy that benefits working families in Washington without giving huge windfalls to millionaires, billionaires and corporations,” she told The Daily News in an email. “Simply put: There is no justification for spending $1.5 trillion to give tax breaks to the wealthy while raising taxes on hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians,” she added.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell also had harsh words for Senate Republicans’ plan during a markup hearing Monday.
“A big chunk of this bill is being paid for on the backs of middle class families by taking away their deductions,” she said. “This isn’t simplification of our tax code, it’s simply raising taxes on middle class families in my state.”
And U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking member on the Senate Health and Education Committee, told The Daily News that the plan would be a bad deal for the region and the country.
“Republican leaders’ partisan plans to raise taxes on workers and middle class families in order to give a massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans would hurt millions of families in Southwest Washington and nationwide,” she said in a statement. “This proposal is nothing more than a massive giveaway to the wealthy at the expense of working families, and any representative from Washington state who supports this plan will have to explain to their constituents why they are putting party and ideology above our home state and our working families.”