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Opinions on who benefits still contrast, as full Senate awaits tax reform vote

WBFO file photos

With a Republican tax reform plan passed by the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday, a vote by the full legislative body was anticipated by the end of the week. One of those who will cast a vote insists it's a gift for the very wealthy, while a Western New York Republican in the House says the data shows middle class families will enjoy tax relief.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Tom Reed held conference calls just 30 minutes apart Tuesday. Gillibrand, a Democrat, opened with a statement calling the Senate GOP tax reform plan "Washington's culture of soft corruption at its absolute worst," one that rewards lobbyists, large corporations and the nation's wealthiest citizens at the expense of the middle class.

"It's a blatant attempt to take millions of families' hard-earned money and hand it over to rich companies on the Fortune 500 list," Gillibrand said. "It gives corporations and the wealthiest one percent of income earners massive tax cuts, paid for in part by increasing taxes on families across America."

Gillibrand says the beneficiaries of the tax reform plan are already enjoying a booming stock market, while the workers on the factory floors and in grocery stores didn't enjoy a raise from those profits.

She said the wealthy will also continue to enjoy tax write-offs that will be taken away from others.

"There's a provision in the bill that takes away tax assistance for teachers who use their own money to buy pens, books and other supplies for students," Gillibrand said. "Corporations, meanwhile, will still be allowed to deduct their office supplies from their taxes." 

Gillibrand also took a shot at local Republican Congressman Chris Collins, referring to a previous quote, "my donors are basically saying get it done or don't ever call me again," suggesting it reveals Republican motivations. 

But Reed, a Republican whose district includes Western New York's Southern Tier, dismissed claims that the GOP is only interested in helping the upper class. He says the data is there showing that most middle-class families in his district will enjoy a tax savings of about $1,600. 

He pointed out that while the Senate's version of the tax reform bill fully eliminates state and local tax (SALT) deductions, the House version of the bill keeps it in place up to $10,000. It's a compromise he supports. 

"Standing on that side of the compromise, I think, is the right thing to do," Reed said. "It recognizes there are folks that can still take the deduction."

Reed was also asked about developments in Washington Tuesday, including President Donald Trump's suggestion that he didn't see a deal that would avert a federal government shutdown in December and the cancelation of a meeting between Trump and Democratic leaders Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

The Southern Tier representative is not worried about a shutdown and expressed confidence that an agreement on the federal debt ceiling will be in place by December 8 to avoid a shutdown.

"I think a short-term continuing resolution is more realistic than a longer-term negotiated compromise at this time, given the moving parts and moving balls that are in the air," he said. 

He called Tuesday's developments an example of Washington's "political theater."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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