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Local lawmakers react to tax overhaul down partisan lines

National Public Radio

Republicans in Congress had a major victory Tuesday, passing the president's tax program. Democrats were unable to block the bill before it went to the Senate. However, the bill will go back to the House for a second vote Wednesday because of changes mandated by arcane Senate rules, but it is expected to make it to the president's desk.

The bill has been the subject of major backroom maneuvering in its various stages, including revisions so frequent and so quick there were hand-written amendments. That was before the two houses passed two different bills and they went to a conference committee. The final bill included a last-minute amendment benefiting real estate investors, with no indication who sponsored the change.

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) blasted the legislation as a bad bill that carries a heavy future cost and major benefits for some senators, especially Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who originally was a "no" vote.

"He was a 'no' before he voted 'yes,'" Higgins said. "There's a provision stuck in the bill that provides a 20 percent deduction for real estate trusts - and he will benefit from that to the tune of about $7 million a year. I think that's a pretty dramatic and problematic development that needs to be reviewed very closely and immediately."

The provision has been nicknamed the "Corker Kickback," in the tradition of personalizing amendments aimed at swinging a single vote. Higgins said the $1.5 trillion deficit from the tax bill is being ignored by Republicans who were complaining about deficits when Obama was president.

"These are people that came in here screaming and yelling and kicking and screaming about deficits, Higgins said. "They just voted to increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion. Now that's a big problem, but they are also creating a scenario or basis from which later this year to come back and say, 'My God, the deficit is so high we have to cut Medicare and Medicaid.'"

Higgins said that has been the goal all all along.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to twitter to re-state his opposition.

"What a disgrace. That's what this bill is. It's an absolute disgrace," Schumer said. "There is no reason for a single middle-class family to pay more while every single corporation pays less. I believe the entire Republican Party will come to rue the day they voted for the #GOPTaxScam."

Credit File Photo
Rep. Brian Higgins (left) and Rep. Chris Collins

Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence) was exuberant after the vote, saying it is a major benefit to people in his district, with 98 percent getting a tax cut.

"To pay less in taxes next year. For those who don't pay taxes at all but have kids, they are going to have a bigger refundable tax credit for the kids, even though they don't pay taxes," Collins said. "We increased it 40 percent to $1,400 refundable. So if somebody's got two kids and they don't pay any taxes, they're still going to get a $2,800 check from the government."

Collins said small business people also will be able to take advantage of the tax bill, with a 20 percent tax decrease.

"Every small business owner already has his wish list of what he would do to grow the business and now this will give them more money by reducing the taxes they're gonna pay and it won't be then money sent to Washington to be wasted by government," Collins said.

Collins said the income tax cut should start showing up in paychecks in February. While this will add to the deficit immediately, the Clarence Republican said it will create such an economic boom, increasing taxes will pay for the tax cuts, balancing the budget.

Rep. Tom Reed, who helped draft the bill, called it "historic" and said this was seven years in the making.

"This bill will provide much needed tax relief for working families," Reed said. "By keeping more of their money, folks can now take a family trip, make repairs to the car, or save for a rainy day. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape our tax code, bringing a new wave of optimism, opportunity and pride for families in our region.”

Credit National Public Radio

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.