Through social media, Tester, Daines offer opposing views on GOP’s tax reform plan

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, have different views on the GOP’s emerging tax reform plan.

Montana’s two U.S. senators have taken to social media to discuss efforts in Congress to rewrite the nation’s tax code, and while they stand on opposite sides of the debate, they’ve both voiced support for saving workers’ money.

In a brief Q&A session on Facebook, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester expressed frustration with the direction of the tax-cut debate in Congress as it relates to the budget. However, he expressed support for a more focused plan that represented the working class and small businesses.

“This tax proposal that’s been put out, it far and away helps the wealthiest of the wealthy,” Tester said. “We need to undertake a tax reform package that really does give benefits to small businesses and working families without increasing the debt.”

During his first six years in Congress, Tester said, Republicans often focused on the national debt. He said he agreed with the party’s old focus, saying the debt is an issue than needs to be addressed.

However, he believes the GOP’s current budget resolution and its emerging tax plan is irresponsible, as some estimates suggest it could add trillions of dollars to the national debt while padding the pockets of the 1 percent.

“At a minimum, it adds $1.5 trillion to the debt and depending on who you talk to, it goes up to $2.2 trillion and even more,” Tester said. “That’s not responsible budgeting.”

A recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimated that the Republican tax plan would reduce total federal revenue by at least $4.8 trillion over 10 years, effectively increasing the national deficit.

Advocates of the proposal in Congress contend that revenues lost through tax cuts would be covered by increased economic growth. They also believe savings passed on to companies would end up in the pockets of working Americans, thus improving their economic standing.

In a tele-town hall meeting held this week, Sen. Steve Daines did not address the debt issue but stated his support for repealing the so-called death tax and putting more money into the pockets of more Americans.

As it stands, Daines said, the four wealthiest counties in the nation are located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

“The bottom line is, Washington, D.C., has become number one, too powerful, and number two, there’s too much wealth – the concentration of dollars are right here in Washington, D.C.,” Daines said. “I believe strongly we should be working here to take dollars out of Washington, D.C., and put them back in the pockets of hardworking American families, and we can do that through tax cuts.”

While most of the questions fielded by Daines came from supporters who praised President Donald Trump and Daines’ support of the tax plan, some called the proposed tax reform “reverse Robin Hood,” suggesting it took money from the poor and gave to the rich.

“Several of the things you talked about don’t seem like they’re necessarily a good way of moving wealth,” one caller told Daines. “In order to move wealth from the rich – the millionaires – to the working class and the everyday Americans, you have to raise taxes on the wealthy so you have money to give to the poor or the everyday working class.”

Another caller disagreed, saying that view represented class envy. Daines also disagreed and said tax cuts to business owners would enable them to invest in their company and their employees by raising wages.

Daines cited a 1962 speech by President John F. Kennedy on how tax cuts work to build a more prosperous and expanding economy. He said Ronald Reagan shared similar views.

“I believe the American people, if given more more money in their pockets, will spend it more wisely and efficiently than the federal government,” Daines said. “We saw it back with JFK and Ronald Reagan and how this is a great way to get the economy growing fast and, more importantly, get wage growth occurring.”

Daines said the tax brackets “are still very much in flux, making it hard for economists to pin down the true impacts of the GOP tax reform plan.

But several policy analysts found that under the current proposal, the wealthiest 1 percent of Montana households earning $535,000 or more would receive nearly $69,000 in tax savings each year.

In contrast, middle-income households earning $60,000 or less would see an average tax cut of $190.

Tester expressed concern over the budget’s impacts on seniors and Medicare.

“It’s a pretty partisan process where we have one group of people dictating to everyone else what needs to be in this budget,” Tester said. “This budget would cut funding to Medicare, which is a bad thing. Folks have worked hard for Medicare, they’ve paid into it for a lifetime. You can’t take that away from our seniors.”