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N.H. Republicans Support Tax Plan



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lebanon — Two Republicans running for New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional district seat are applauding the GOP tax reform plan in Washington, even as the state’s congressional delegation lines up in opposition.

Both Dr. Stewart Levenson and state Rep. Steve Negron said on Monday that the U.S. House bill passed last week would boost the economy while also easing the tax burden on Granite Staters and local businesses.

The two are vying for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, a staunch opponent of Republican plans to modernize the tax code that she argues would weigh too heavily against the environment, the middle class and students.

“I do believe the bill is better than what we have right now,” said Levenson, of Hopkinton, N.H., during a phone interview on Monday.

Levenson, the former regional director at the Veterans Administration in Manchester, said he’s particularly happy to see the House bill simplify taxes, reducing the number of tax brackets from seven to four (12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent and 39.6 percent).

The top rate would apply to an income of $500,000 or more for individuals, according to The Washington Post.

“Anything that simplifies the tax code is something I can strongly support,” Levenson said.

He also touted tax cuts to small businesses as worthy of support. The House plan would lower the top rate for “pass through” businesses, such as LLCs, from 39.6 percent to 25 percent. It also creates a nine percent tax rate on the first $75,000 in income for business owners who make $150,000 or less.

However, those tax breaks won’t be fully implemented until 2022, the Post reported.

Negron, a retired U.S. Air Force officer from Nashua, said the House plan and a similar one now being considered in the Senate aren’t prefect, but an important step toward making the tax code less complicated.

“I think this is a great effort to try to get the ball rolling,” he said. “We have an ability to do some good things with the tax code.”

Nergon said he also likes that the House plan would reduce the number of tax brackets. He also approved of the bill’s efforts to double the estate tax, which now takes effect when property and assets over $5.5 million are passed to heirs. Under the plan, that number would double to $11 million in 2018 and go away in 2024.

Negron said he hopes the Republican tax plan is amended to protect the existing mortgage interest deduction, which now allows married couple to deduct the interest on mortgages up to $1 million. The House plan would lower that to mortgages up to $500,000.

Kuster contends Republicans never gave Democrats the chance to collaborate and offered too little time to debate or analyze the bill, which was introduced on Nov. 2 and went for a full vote last Thursday.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., also voted against the tax cut.

“The crux of the matter is Republicans have no discussions with Democrats, refuse Democratic amendments to improve the plan and did not get a single Democratic vote in the House,” Kuster said on Monday morning during a press conference in Lebanon City Hall.

Flanked by municipal officials from Lebanon and Hanover, Kuster accused the Republicans of painting the tax plan in a much rosier light than reality suggests.

Large companies will get many of the new tax breaks, she said, citing the plan’s proposal to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.

At the same time, Kuster said, most Americans wouldn’t benefit as much. Over the next five years, 92 percent of Americans would either pay less or see little change, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, an arm of Congress.

Kuster also said provisions of the Republican plan would hamper efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change.

For instance, the plan eliminates a 10 percent tax credit for commercial solar and geothermal projects, Kuster said. It also phases out tax credits for acquiring electric vehicles and reduced credits devoted to wind projects, she said.

“The way I see it, we can have better energy options, clean energy, we can have more jobs and we can have a healthier future for Granite State families,” she said.

Kuster also took issue with a current Senate version of the bill, which would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a legal requirement that most Americans must purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates 13 million more people would become uninsured if the individual mandate were repealed. While it would save the federal government $338 billion over the next 10 years, opponents of such a repeat said it would drive up premiums as younger, healthier Americans opted not to buy any health insurance.

“To repeal the mandate would increase the cost (of insurance) to everyone and it would leave people without health insurance who will undoubtedly need health care coverage going forward,” she said.

Levenson and Negron disagreed, though, saying the mandate was too hard on those who cannot afford health care through the state and federal exchanges.

“People I talk to, they’re not going without health insurance out of any sort of laziness or being inefficient,” Levenson said. “They just can’t afford it.”

However, all three expressed some form is dismay over the bill’s treatment of graduate students, who currently obtain tuition waivers as they teach or perform university research. Under the House plan, those students would to pay income tax on the waiver.

The Senate’s tax reform bill will likely be voted on next, after the body’s Thanksgiving recess. Twin State Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both D-N.H., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have all indicated they will oppose the measure.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, last week applauded passage of the House bill, and the tax plan is a key priority for President Donald Trump.

“While important work remains, today’s news is a step in the right direction. It reduces the number of tax brackets from 7 to 4, increases the child care tax credit by $600 per child, adds a $300 per person deduction for non-child dependents and spouses, eliminates incentives for businesses to outsource American jobs overseas, removes barriers to business repatriating earnings and investing in America, and eliminates the death tax,” Sununu said in a statement last Thursday. “I am pleased that this plan will put more money in hard-working taxpayers’ pockets.”

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.