November 21, 2017

Congress could eliminate the tax break that helped Miami Beach’s Art Deco renaissance

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via @joeflech @alextdaugherty

Behind the signature Miami pastels, perfectly symmetrical facades and terrazzo floors that give South Beach’s rich stock of Art Deco buildings its distinctive flavor, one section of the U.S. tax code fueled the rehabilitation of these once-crumbling structures.

As part of a sweeping tax overhaul, Republicans in Congress could eliminate the historic tax credit — a move that is upsetting local preservationists and developers who say the credit is an essential factor in the financial formula that keeps these decades-old buildings standing.

The tax plan passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday eliminates a 20 percent historic preservation tax credit. The tax plan under debate by the Senate currently keeps the tax credit, though it could be changed.

Locals who fight to save historic buildings and developers who take these buildings on as restoration projects agree that reducing the incentive would hamper future rehabilitation of Miami and Miami Beach’s historic architecture.

“In the development community, we take advantage of this,” said Sandor Scher, principal of Claro Development. “This is a real incentive.”

Claro is planning to rehab and reuse several late-era Deco and Miami Modern buildings in the redevelopment of Ocean Terrace, a block along the city’s north shore. Scher plans to apply for historic tax credits to help finance the project, which is currently under review by the city planners.

The credit enables developers to save on taxes and spend more on costly rehabilitation projects that preserve the facades of historic buildings while renovating the rest of the structure to make it economically viable.

Hotelier Alan Lieberman helped shape South Beach’s character through several historic restoration projects that met the stringent requirements set forth by the National Park Service, which runs the tax credit program and approves projects based on how faithful a restoration is to the building’s original look.

Lieberman’s company, South Beach Group Hotels, has preserved archetypal Art Deco hotels in the city’s tourist center, including the Collins Plaza Hotel, the Chesterfield and the Catalina Hotel and Beach Club. He said historic hotels are good for business because guests appreciate the uniqueness of the architecture.

So do people who live in the Beach, a rare intersection between tourism and resident interests.

“We take the buildings for granted,” Lieberman said. “It’s really nice, it’s interesting and it’s comfortable. People love historic buildings.”

At least one member of the local Congressional delegation agrees and hopes the final bill will leave the tax credit untouched when it comes to a vote.

“I will vote for this monstrosity with the hope that many of these things will get taken care of once the bill comes back and we have a conference and people come to their senses,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, of the House bill. But she did not rule out voting against the final bill if enough changes aren’t made.

“Preservation is so important in my congressional district, not only in the Gables but in Miami Beach. Oh my gosh, those beautiful Art Deco hotels and homes,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “We want to preserve them. I’m not in favor of doing away with those deductions. Why take it out on the little guys like that?”

Read more here.

November 16, 2017

Miami Republicans vote in favor of Trump-supported tax overhaul

Congress Taxes

@alextdaugherty 

All three Miami Republicans in the House of Representatives voted Thursday in favor of a $1.5 trillion plan to overhaul the nation’s tax code, though one of them called the legislation a “monstrosity” and left the door open to voting against the final proposal if negotiations with the Senate don’t yield enough changes.

Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen all voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed by a vote of 227-205. Every Democrat from South Florida voted against the plan with the exception of Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, who did not vote. Thirteen Republicans, mostly from northeastern states, voted against the plan.

Curbelo, a member of the House tax-writing committee responsible for drafting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, has been a vocal supporter of the legislation for months and delivered introductory remarks in English and Spanish at a press conference with Republican leadership lauding the bill’s passage.

“What a country and what a day,” Curbelo said. “Today we are one step closer for tax relief for every American family.”

Passing a bill would give President Donald Trump and the GOP their first big legislative triumph in 2017 after an effort to repeal Obamacare stalled earlier this year.

Diaz-Balart also praised the bill in a statement after the final vote.

“Filing your taxes shouldn't be an arduous and burdensome task; this legislation creates a simpler, fairer tax code for individuals, protecting their hard-earned dollars,” Diaz-Balart said. “American families deserve a tax code that allows them to keep more of what they make; for Floridians, that means keeping $1,945 more of their wages. It also creates more than 50,000 new jobs in the Sunshine State, encouraging business owners and revitalizing the job market.”

Ros-Lehtinen had a much different response to the sweeping tax legislation, saying she only voted in favor on Thursday so the House and Senate can hash out differences before drafting a final bill. Ros-Lehtinen said she could vote against the final bill if enough changes aren’t made.

“I will vote for this monstrosity with the hope that many of these things will get taken care of once the bill comes back and we have conference and people come to their senses,” Ros-Lehtinen said before the vote.


Read more here.

November 15, 2017

Rubio sees ‘progress’ on Senate tax bill

Marco Rubio 3

via @learyreports @alextdaugherty

Senate Republicans unveiled changes to their tax overhaul plan on Tuesday, and one of the changes is a $2,000 child tax credit championed by Sen. Marco Rubio.

The $2,000 tax credit is the minimum amount that the Florida Republican said was necessary to help working families in a tax proposal and he previously indicated he would vote against any plan that did not meet the $2,000 minimum.

"We are making progress," Rubio said Wednesday on Twitter.

The initial Senate plan increased the child tax credit to $1,650 from the current $1,000 maximum, $50 more than the House proposal released two weeks ago. Democrats say the credit should be even higher and Rubio at one point talked up $2,500. 

Rubio held numerous meetings with Ivanka Trump and Utah Sen. Mike Lee to discuss a higher child tax credit. 

"I’m not going to vote for an increase on the middle class," Rubio said in October. "But we’re not going to get to that point. We’re not that crazy around here."

Democrats are not expected to vote in favor of the GOP tax bill, especially after Republicans included a provision to repeal Obamacare's individual mandate on Tuesday. Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, is frustrated that Democrats were not included in any preliminary discussions on a tax bill. 

November 13, 2017

Bill Nelson calls out Republicans by name for refusing to work with him on taxes

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@alextdaugherty

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson loves to talk about his bipartisan work in Washington and close relationship with Republican colleagues like Florida counterpart Marco Rubio

But Democrats weren't part of drafting the Senate's plan to rewrite the nation's tax code, and Nelson is personally appealing to his Republican colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee to find common ground. The bill is set for a committee markup on Monday afternoon, though Republicans can push the bill through with a simple majority. 

"We are completely rewriting our tax code," Nelson said, according to remarks prepared for delivery. "Yet, we haven’t had any hearings on the bill. Or any time to seriously debate the slew of policy changes that will affect people’s everyday lives." 

Then Nelson calls out several Republicans on the Finance Committee by name, referencing work he's done with them in the past. 

"Mr. Chairman (Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch), how many times have we come together to find common ground and get something good done for the American people? Just last year, we passed the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act out of committee with a bipartisan vote of 26 to 0. It started with you and the Ranking Member hashing out differences to find a workable middle. Why can’t we do that again?"

"Senator (Chuck) Grassley, we worked together on the ACE Kids Act, which would create a national network of children’s hospitals and other providers to better serve kids needing specialized care."

"Senator (John) Cornyn, we’ve worked together to increase accountability at the VA, to honor helicopter air ambulance crews that served in Vietnam, and to help citrus growers struggling to deal with a plant disease known as citrus greening."

"Senator (John) Thune, you and I have partnered on so many issues in the Commerce Committee it’s hard to keep count. If anyone wants a good example of how we should be conducting ourselves, just look to how Senator Thune and I work together in the Commerce Committee."

"You all get the picture. I could go all the way down the line citing examples of times when each of us crossed the partisan divide to do the people’s work. It doesn’t happen as much as I’d like. But it is possible," Nelson said. 

Nelson also offered nine amendments to the tax bill, including lower tax rates for people making less than $170,000 a year, reinstating personal exemptions and providing funding for citrus trees struck by disease in Florida. His amendments are likely to fail in the GOP-controlled committee. 

"All I’m asking is to give bipartisanship a chance," Nelson said.

The House is expected to vote on its tax overhaul, dubbed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, this week. If the Senate passes its version, the two chambers will deliberate in conference to come up with a final bill. 

November 09, 2017

Bill Nelson: 'This is not the way to make complicated tax law'

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@alextdaugherty

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is a member of the Senate Finance Committee tasked with drafting the chamber's tax overhaul after the House of Representatives released their version last week. 

He isn't happy with how things are going. 

When asked if there are any areas of potential compromise for Democrats and Republicans on a tax bill, Nelson chuckled.

"How can I answer that when I don't know that they're going to do?" Nelson said, adding that Finance Committee chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, "doesn't seem to be cooperating at all." 

"They're cutting out the members of the Finance Committee who happen to be Democrats," Nelson said. "They're accelerating saying that they're going to file it (the tax bill) today or tomorrow and that we're going to markup on Monday. That's no hearings, nothing. This is not the way to make complicated tax law." 

Nelson, who often touts the benefits of bipartisanship, is one of 12 Democrats on the Finance Committee. 

A leaked memo of the Senate tax plan released Thursday sets the child tax credit at $1,650, $50 higher than $1,600 House proposal but lower than the $2,000 proposal championed by Sen. Marco Rubio. Rubio has said that he will not vote for a tax plan if the current $1,000 child tax credit tax credit doesn't at least double. 

Nelson, Florida's only Democrat holding statewide office, is up for reelection in 2018 and is likely to face a challenge from Gov. Rick Scott.

Curbelo gets his Ivanka Trump meeting

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Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo had a Capitol Hill sitdown with Ivanka Trump on Thursday, as the president's daughter has become a fixture in Congress while the House and Senate debate a proposal to overhaul the nation's tax code. 

Curbelo, who did not support Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election, is a member of the House tax writing committee responsible for drafting the details of a tax proposal. 

"Great to have Ivanka Trump in the Capitol today to discuss the pro-family Tax Reform being considered by the Ways and Means GOP Committee," Curbelo tweeted.

Trump met with Sen. Marco Rubio on multiple occasions to discuss an expansion of the child tax credit to at least $2,000 in recent months, though Rubio isn't happy that the initial House proposal only expands the current $1,000 credit to $1,600.

The House tax plan, dubbed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, can pass with a simple majority of Republicans in the House and Senate. 

November 08, 2017

Republicans look to ax tax credit that benefits Miami Beach hotels

Ocean Terrace - Northeast View - Rendering by Revuelta Architecture

via @lesleyclark

Ronald Reagan put the historic tax credit into the U.S. tax code. Donald Trump’s company tried to use it.

Now Republicans are fighting to get rid of it.

Once crumbling reminders of the past, nearly a dozen glitzy Art Deco hotels along Miami Beach have benefited from the credit, which could be wiped out in the Republican tax bill. Well-known landmarks throughout America have also taken advantage of the break, from San Francisco’s famed Ferry Building to Asheville, North Carolina’s Grove Arcade and a horse barn at the Biltmore Estate.

It’s a tax credit that’s been used for 40 years to help spark the rebirth of old, historically significant buildings as well as often neglected communities. At one point The Trump Organization applied for the federal historic preservation tax credit for its Washington hotel.

Now, history buffs, developers and preservationists nationwide are banding together in hopes of fending off the push to end the tax credit.

And they’re invoking the Republicans’ most enduring modern historic figure, Reagan, who signed legislation making the provision a permanent part of the tax code in 1986.

“We have a limited supply of historic buildings and we want to make it viable economically to preserve them,” said Melissa Wyllie, executive director of the non-profit Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. “From a development standpoint this tax credit can make the difference between preserving a building or starting from scratch, and potentially demolishing one.”

Republicans say they are trying to trim such tax breaks as part of their effort to deliver across the board tax relief.

“With the lowest tax rates in modern history for American businesses of all sizes, this legislation will allow our local job creators to keep more of their earnings to invest as they see fit — including in local revitalization projects,” said Shane McDonald, House Ways and Means Committee spokesman.

Read more here.

October 18, 2017

Koch-backed group urges Bill Nelson to support Trump's tax reform effort

BillNelsonCarlJusteApril172017

@alextdaugherty 

For months, president Donald Trump and various conservative groups have courted moderate Democrats to join in their plan to overhaul the nation's tax system, which hasn't been significantly changed since 1986. 

This week, the Senate will likely vote on a 2018 budget proposal, and Americans for Prosperity, a Koch Brothers-backed group that is pushing for tax reform, is urging Sen. Bill Nelson to vote in favor in a new digital ad released on Wednesday.

"Nelson has hinted at being willing to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to reform the tax code to make it more fair and efficient," AFP Florida director Chris Hudson said in a statement. "This is a once in a generation opportunity that deserves his full endorsement immediately."

Passing the budget plan would enable the GOP to proceed on their tax overhaul without a 60 vote threshold in the Senate, a necessity when Republicans only control 52 seats. Some moderate Democrats like North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin have indicated a willingness to work with Republicans on taxes. 

Nelson, one of 10 sitting Democratic senators up for reelection in 2018 in states won by Trump in 2016, voted against a procedural motion to start debate on the 2018 budget on Tuesday. The motion passed on a 50-47 party line vote. 

 

Watch the ad here.

August 25, 2017

Ron DeSantis ties himself to Donald Trump as he weighs gubernatorial run

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@alextdaugherty 

Rep. Ron DeSantis sounds like a man who's ready to run for governor. 

"I think that there's definitely a opening for somebody that's got a proven record for advancing limited government," DeSantis said in Miami on Thursday after advocating for an overhaul of the nation's tax system with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers.  "I think there needs to be someone with military experience in the race. There's definitely the opening." 

The Republican congressman from northeast Florida repeatedly echoed Donald Trump during his remarks, chastising Republican senators who voted against repealing Obamacare, referring to Washington as "the swamp" and praising Trump's decision not to support a tax on imported goods championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan as a way to fund an overhaul of the tax system.

"I think that the president's priorities have been strong priorities," DeSantis said. "We've got a lot of senators, congressman sniping that the president tweeted this or that. Here's what I would say, in the Congress whatever we pass, he's 99.9 percent likely to sign it. We complained about having Obama as president...all you have to do in the congress is legislate, put bills on the president's desk. This is a president that wants to sign legislation, he's inviting us to put things on his desk. I think the spotlight is on Congress, and particularly those members who haven't been as forward-leaning on honoring their campaign promises that they made to their constituents. Now is the time to follow through." 

DeSantis also expressed a strong desire for term limits in Congress, arguing that longtime leaders don't have an incentive to shake up the status quo and are too reliant on lobbyists when drafting bills. 

"K Street lobbyists saw the Senate health care bill before Republican senators did," DeSantis said.

DeSantis, who will make a decision about the governor's race sometime in the fall, isn't a stranger to statewide campaigns. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 but dropped out when Sen. Marco Rubio reversed course and decided to run for reelection. Even though DeSantis ran a statewide campaign, he acknowledged that building name recognition in large markets like Miami will be a tough and expensive challenge. 

"I think a lot of the folks that are going to be in that race are going to have similarities, they'll be much better known in Tallahassee than me, but that's fine," DeSantis said.

But there is one area where DeSantis differs from Trump; he wants to use the media to talk about the issues and get himself more well-known among voters. 

"In a Republican primary the only way to do the state is to get on cable news and talk radio," DeSantis said. "In the last cycle I wanted to do more media but all anyone cared about was the presidential race. Now we're kind of in a governing period where people are concerned about all the issues going on nationally. I think there's a lot of our primary voters that know me much better today than they did two years ago, but obviously you've got a long way to go. You've got to get free media, you've got to get paid media and you've got to have an army on the ground to spread the message. It's more difficult in this state than any other, but it can be done."

Former congressman and sitting agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam and State Sen. Jack Latvala have announced bids for the GOP nomination to replace Rick Scott in 2018. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also weighing a run in the Republican primary. 

August 09, 2017

Center-right group launches TV ads on taxes in Carlos Curbelo's district

Curbelo

@alextdaugherty 

American Action Network, a center-right group with ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, will spend $2.5 million in the next few weeks to promote an overhaul of the nation's tax system, the next big legislative fight for Republicans in Congress. 

The TV ad buy includes Rep. Carlos Curbelo's Key West-to-Miami district and the ad argues that the current tax system causes American workers to lose their jobs. 

"We are committed to standing up for Americans who have been left behind by our broken tax code, and sharing real stories to raise awareness on how jobs have fled to countries like China," said American Action Network executive director Corry Bliss. "It’s time for Congress to act and defend hard-working Americans and their families across the country.”

Curbelo is one of 24 mostly moderate House Republicans who are part of the August ad buy. The list also includes Florida Rep. Brian Mast, who won Patrick Murphy's seat after he ran for Senate. Curbelo and Mast's districts are being targeted by Democrats as potential 2018 pickups.

Three Democrats, including Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, are challenging Curbelo while former Senate candidate Pam Keith has filed to run against Mast.  

American Action Network has gotten involved in Curbelo's district before. In 2014, when Curbelo successfully challenged Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, American Action Network spent $1.2 million against Garcia. 

The organization is expected to spend up to $20 million on an efforts to change the tax code in the coming months, including a $1 million radio campaign launched two weeks ago that also included Curbelo's district.

Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump are pushing for a lower corporate and personal tax rate along with eliminating many deductions, but an overhaul of the nation's tax system hasn't occurred since Ronald Reagan's administration.