Tax plan a dilemma for local Reps

U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance

U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, a New Jersey Republican (AP, file)

Congressional Republicans in the Philadelphia area who face re-election next year are confronting the decision over whether to vote for the proposed tax overhaul unveiled by a House-Senate conference committee Friday.

Most say they’re studying the plan. New Jersey U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance made up his mind quickly, telling reporters on in the Capitol he will be voting “no.”

“I believe that there should be the ability to deduct state and local taxes,” Lance said. “It has been in the tax code since 1913, and I believe it should be retained.”

The package limits the combined deduction for state and local income, property and sales taxes to $10,000.

In New Jersey, which has high state and local taxes, only Rep. Tom MacArthur voted for the House version of the plan, which eliminated deductions for state and local income and sales taxes, and limited the property tax deduction to $10,000.

In Pennsylvania, Representatives Ryan Costello, Brian Fitzpatrick, and Pat Meehan voted for the House proposal, saying it would bring tax cuts to most middle-class families.

While the plan reduces deductions for state and local taxes, it provides other tax breaks, including a big increase in the standard deduction, a doubling of the child tax credit, and lower individual tax rates overall.

Most of the individual tax breaks expire in 2025, while corporate tax cuts are permanent.

Franklin & Marshall political scientist Terry Madonna said in an interview the tax plan and the aggressive campaigns planned by Democrats leave Republicans in the Philadelphia suburbs with plenty to think about.

“The stakes are extraordinarily high,” Madonna said. “If it ultimately passes and they vote for it, and over the course of the next year reports are negative about it, it could be a serious political problem for them.”

Cutting taxes is a core plank in the Republican platform, so it’s not easy for members to vote against the bill, even if they they would change it.

National polls have shown the GOP tax proposals to be broadly unpopular, but Republicans believe their constituents will see a direct financial benefit, and hope the corporate tax cuts will stimulate economic growth.

Republican leaders hope to bring the plan to a vote on by Christmas.

Matt Laslo contributed to this article.

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