Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo is headed to a storied site for Republicans -- former President Ronald Reagan's California ranch -- to help the House GOP make its tax-reform pitch.
Curbelo will join Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and other lawmakers at Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara on Wednesday. Brady chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax policy. Curbelo is the only South Florida legislator on the panel -- which makes him the most prominent local voice on the issue.
It's not the sexiest of political topics, Curbelo readily acknowledges: "It's easy for this issue to become a technical issue."
Republicans intend to return from their August congressional recess and push tax reform, moving on from their failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. A super PAC tied to House Speaker Paul Ryan is already running ads in Curbelo's district urging a tax-code rewrite. His votes will be closely watched by Democrats, who consider Curbelo's Westchester-to-Key West 26th district a top 2018 target.
The most contentious tax question for Republicans so far has been whether to support a 20 percent tax on imports into the country -- the so-called Border Adjustment Tax. Ads have asked Curbelo to oppose it.
Curbelo said tax reform already taken up most of his time in Washington this year, in part because he's had to master the complexities of tax policy.
"Most of what I knew about taxes was how to file them," he said.
Since then, he's tried to simplify the issue by filming YouTube videos in English and Spanish outside a Miami coffee window -- a ventanita. His line? "Tax reform is about people."
Wednesday's event is intended to recall tax reform passed under Reagan, the last major overhaul of the code. Curbelo's piece will be proposing more targeted child tax credits and a larger standard deduction, two changes the GOP says will save families money. Curbelo has also filed legislation to permanently extend IRS tax-prep services for low-income filers, and and to allow marijuana businesses to benefit from tax deductions and credits.
Ahead of Wednesday's talk, Curbelo tried to frame the discussion as a big-picture economic question.
"I actually look at a lot of the pessimism and anger and even some of the violence in our country, and I attribute at least part of it to the fact that we've been growing at a very slow rate for the last decade-plus," he said. "People are hopeless. A lot of people feel like they don't have the opportunities, or have a prosperous future in this country, so they are resentful and they look for scapegoats."
"My big goal in tax reform is to make people happy in this country," he said. "I think we achieve that by getting to 3 percent growth through tax reform and tax simplification and tax reduction."
Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald