October 08, 2018

Republicans see tax cuts as a way to motivate voters when Democrats have enthusiasm



Republicans are likely going to lose congressional seats in November, a trend that goes back decades when a new president’s party also controls Congress.

But in an environment where incumbent South Florida Republicans are mostly playing defense on issues like healthcare, immigration and guns, there’s one issue where they think action over the last two years can excite independents and the base alike: taxes.

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo was partially responsible for writing the GOP tax bill, the most significant legislation that the Republican-controlled Congress passed under President Donald Trump. Each of the three Miami Republicans in the House, Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen voted for the final bill, which cuts taxes for most individuals for the next eight years, cuts corporate taxes and gives a bigger child tax credit to families. The bill will also likely blow a massive hole in the federal deficit.

“I think our biggest accomplishment was to pass historic tax reform legislation that has allowed an economic recovery to include more Americans,” Curbelo said. “That doesn’t mean everyone is in perfect financial shape in this country but without question since we passed tax reform, [employers] are investing more in American workers, businesses are coming back and foreign competitors are not beating us.”

The economy is also in an upswing, something that could bode well for Republicans campaigning on the tax bill. Unemployment is at a near 50-year low, though hiring and wage growth is sluggish. Republicans passed the bill on party lines and Democrats were left out of negotiations. A few Republicans from wealthier areas of New York and California voted against the bill because it capped the deduction on state, local and property taxes.

Some notable opposition to one part of the tax bill came from Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who advocated for a slightly smaller corporate tax cut in exchange for an expanded child tax credit, though he is not up for reelection and ultimately voted for the final bill. 

Outside groups are touting the tax cuts, including a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan that opened a field operation in Curbelo’s district nearly 18 months ahead of Election Day.

“In my district the median family of four got tax relief of approximately $2,000,” Curbelo said. “Some people think that’s crumbs, but I know people who have said it’s the difference between taking a vacation or not or affording a car payment or not. It’s given a lot of families and individuals relief after a decade of stagnant wages and low growth. Things are getting better in our country economically.”

But the average tax cut disproportionately benefits wealthy Americans.

Households making $500,000 or more will see a 3.3 percent to 4.3 percent savings on their tax bill this year, while households making less than $75,000 will see a 1.6 percent savings at most, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. Households making more than $1 million will see a 0.9 percent tax savings in 2027, after the tax cuts passed by Congress sunset, and households making less than $75,000 will see a slight tax increase.

More here.

May 02, 2018

Why Nancy Pelosi likes Marco Rubio's talk on taxes

Marco Rubio 3


Minutes after the GOP tax bill passed the U.S. Senate last year, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said "this GOP tax bill was never about helping the middle class."

Months after the GOP tax bill became law, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who voted for the tax bill, made an argument that sounded much like Nelson's.

"There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they're going to take the money they're saving and reinvest it in American workers," Rubio said in a recent interviewwith The Economist. "In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker."

Rubio's comments were quickly lauded by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Democrats in Washington.
"We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves," Schumer's office said in a statement. Pelosi wielded a paper copy of Rubio's remarks while visiting Florida on Wednesday.
More here.

April 13, 2018

Curbelo won't appear with Trump in Miami on Monday

Donald trump 2

@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

President Donald Trump is coming to South Florida to talk up the GOP tax bill on Monday, but a Miami Republican who played a role in its creation—and who is facing a tough reelection—won't be there. 

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a member of the House tax writing committee that drafted the tax bill signed into law by Trump late last year, is in Lima this weekend at the Summit of the Americas and won't be back in time for the Monday afternoon event, according to spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez

"Congressman Curbelo is part of the U.S. Delegation to the Summit of the Americas, taking place in Peru this weekend, promoting our engagement in the region," Rodriguez said in an email. "The delegation is not set to return until Monday so he is currently not expected to make it back in time to attend the event in Miami." 

Curbelo had plans to attend the summit well before Trump’s event was announced, Rodriguez said. 

The Monday event is an official White House event and not a Trump campaign stop, though Curbelo appearing alongside a president who overwhelmingly lost Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West district to Hillary Clinton could be ad fodder for Democrats seeking to defeat him in November. Curbelo's campaign previously said he doesn't invite people to campaign with him but "anyone who wants to support Carlos' efforts and endorse his bipartisan approach to public service is welcome to do so." 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who doesn't have a serious Democratic opponent and who has worked with Trump on Cuba policy and immigration, confirmed that he will attend the event, though details have not been publicly released yet by the White House. 

Sen. Marco Rubio's office did not immediately respond when asked if he plans to attend, though Rubio is also attending the Summit of the Americas in Peru. 

February 14, 2018

Under Florida House proposal, going to the store could mean funding school vouchers

Gabriella Angotti-Jones | Times

Most people don't consider walking into a corner store and buying a gallon of milk to be a controversial action. But under a new proposal in the Florida House, part of that sales tax could pay for school vouchers that have been a flash point between lawmakers and activists.

The proposal, only a small piece of a larger tax package passed through the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, would open up sales tax revenue to finance two of the state's major voucher programs that allow low-income students and those with disabilities to attend private schools on the state's dime.

If it succeeds, this would be a big first for a specific education program to draw money from consumer-directed sales tax — which has previously been off-limits for earmarks. The sales tax is largely directed to the state's general fund, which pays for everything from roads to public schools. the sales tax is the state's largest funding source. It produced $24.6 billion in 2016.

"These are mostly poor minority students who are struggling academically and ... they're looking for a lifeboat for a better education," said Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, the chair of Ways and Means.  "There is a demand that far exceeds what the SFOs (scholarship-funding organizations) have been able to access."

He added that he didn't think using sales tax for school vouchers would open the floodgates for different causes.

"Are people going to come out of the woodwork? They'll have to make their case," Renner said. "This is a compelling case to help those that have educational needs."

Currently, the state has a few programs allow businesses to get tax credits on their sales tax for creating jobs or contributing to the state's agricultural sector. However, this would be the first time businesses could essentially earmark their sales tax for a specific purpose rather than going to the state's general bank account.

The House's proposal would allow businesses to opt-in to this program and cap scholarship funding at $154 million, allowing the wait-lists of the existing Gardiner and Florida Tax Credit Scholarships to substantially shrink. Those dollars would go straight to the organizations administering the scholarships, rather than to state's general revenue.

Democrats condemned the measure as a "giveaway" and a way for the state to inch its way into taking away a piece of the state's most important funding source from traditional public schools.

Rep. Joseph Abruzzo of Boynton Beach, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, asked repeatedly to have this piece separated from the rest of the tax package, which both parties had cooperated to draft. Those amendments failed.

"The truth of the matter is ... this is not just for the poorest of the poorest of the poor anymore," he said. "It started out just a corporate tax scholarship, we're moving into fees and now in this bill we have gone into the unbelievable realm of sales tax. That is just wrong."

Even Rep. Margaret Good — who was elected just Tuesday night to represent Sarasota in a victory for Democrats in a typical Republican stronghold — spoke at a press conference opposing this bill shortly before she was sworn in.

"Over the last five months I have knocked on a lot of doors and talked to a lot of voters in Sarasota who are really concerned about our public education system," she said.

Funding for school vouchers has exploded in the years since they were created. The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program began as a $50 million project in 2001, and will give out close to $700 million in the 2017-2018 school year, according to the Department of Education.

December 28, 2017

How the GOP tax overhaul could impact your kid’s education


via @kyragurney

The sweeping $1.5 trillion tax overhaul President Donald Trump signed into law last week will likely impact many areas of American life, including education.

Experts are still analyzing what the GOP tax plan means for each state, but it could affect everything from how parents pay for private schools to the amount of money available for public education. Here’s a look at how the tax overhaul might impact Florida schools — and some of the proposed changes that didn’t make it into the final bill.

1. A new way to pay private school tuition

For some families, the GOP tax plan will make it easier to pay private school tuition.

The tax-advantaged 529 accounts many families use to save for college — because earnings aren’t subject to federal income tax — can now be used to save for K-12 private school tuition as well.

Supporters are cheering the provision as a victory for the school choice movement, which supports non-traditional education options such as charter schools and private school vouchers.

“It expands choice, it encourages families to save for education and it dramatically increases the flexibility on how families use 529 accounts,” said Thomas Carroll, the executive director of the #EdTaxCredit50 Coalition, a group pushing for the expansion of 529 accounts. “I just think it’s a tremendous opportunity for families to look at as an easier way to save money for the school of their choice.”

Ralph Arza, a former Florida legislator and the director of government relations for the Florida Charter School Alliance, said the tax legislation empowers parents to pick the best education option for their child.

“Children are expensive,” he said. “Any time you can help a family out by putting a few more dollars into the family account, I think that’s a very positive thing for our country.”

But critics argue that the provision will primarily aid wealthy families because low- and middle-income parents — who might already struggle to save for college — likely don’t have extra money to set aside for private school tuition.

Read more here.

December 15, 2017

Rubio a 'yes' on GOP tax bill

Marco Rubio 3

via AP 

The 24-hour saga of Sen. Marco Rubio's tax vote is over.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will vote for his party's $1.5 trillion tax bill. That gives a major boost to the prospects that GOP leaders will be able to push their prized measure through Congress next week.

The Florida lawmaker had said he'd oppose the legislation unless his colleagues made the per child tax credit more generous for low-income families.

On Friday, Republicans said the final legislation would do just that. Lawmakers said the bill would now let low-earners using the credit get up to $1,400 in IRS refunds if they owe little or no taxes. That's up from $1,100 in the earlier version.

Rubio tweeted that the change is "a solid step toward broader reforms which are both Pro-Growth and Pro-Worker."

Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said that meant he'd vote yes.


Rubio gets concessions on child tax credit


via @learyreports

Washington tax writers say they have adjusted the sweeping legislation to improve the child tax credit, a demand of Sen. Marco Rubio.

Details have yet to emerge and Rubio's office says he will review the details.

The tax package would double the per-child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000. The bill originally made a portion of the credit — $1,100 — available to families even if they owe no income tax. Noem says that amount has been increased to $1,400. Rubio said he wanted the $1,100 figure increased, but he did not say by how much.

Low-income taxpayers would receive the money in the form of a tax refund, which is why it's called a "refundable" tax credit.

Background here.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Democratic Senator calls out Republicans, including Carlos Curbelo, for supporting tax bill with Arctic drilling

Carlos Curbelo 3 (1)


Last week, a group of 12 House Republicans, including Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, signed a letter encouraging Republican leadership to pass a tax overhaul without a provision that would allow oil drilling in parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

But the provision was included in the Senate's tax bill, and is likely to stay when House and Senate negotiators finalize the bill on Friday. 

On Thursday, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee called out the 12 Republicans for engaging in "pure posturing." 

"It is now clear that the letter from twelve House Republicans opposing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was pure posturing," Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell said. "If these Republicans want to stop their party from turning the refuge into an oilfield, they should vote no. Lip service won't protect the Arctic." 

Six of the 12 Republicans who signed the letter, including Curbelo, voted in favor of the initial tax bill before Thanksgiving.

Curbelo hasn't indicated that he will vote against the tax bill even though he opposes expanding oil drilling in Alaska's North Slope. He is also the co-founder of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, a group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers who are concerned about the impacts of climate change. 

"I don’t think there’s any one provision that would motivate me to deny tax relief for all of my constituents," Curbelo said this week.

Curbelo has been a vocal advocate for the tax overhaul, frequently appearing with Speaker Paul Ryan and touting the bill in Spanish. 

December 14, 2017

Rubio to vote against GOP tax bill if child credit isn't expanded for low-income families

Marco Rubio 3



Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told Senate Republican Leadership on Thursday that he intends to vote against the massive tax bill barreling through Congress if the child tax credit isn’t expanded, a potential major blow in President Donald Trump’s desire to pass a tax overhaul by Christmas.

If the bill isn’t changed and Rubio votes against the plan, there would be no room for additional Republican dissension as the GOP only holds 52 of 100 Senate seats. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker already announced that he would vote against the plan due to concerns on the federal deficit, leaving Republicans with only 51 votes.

Vice President Mike Pence would break a tie if the GOP has 50 votes.

Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, proposed a change to make the child tax credit fully refundable as a way to help low-income families, but that plan was opposed by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP leadership and the measure failed.

Despite the failure of their proposed changed, Rubio and Lee voted for the initial tax bill that passed the Senate two weeks ago with 51 votes.

Rubio has made it clear he wants an expanded child tax credit for months, and President Donald Trump hinted at an expansion on Wednesday saying, “You'll hear the numbers very soon but they're even larger than anticipated.”

The child tax credit reduces some families' tax bill for every child they have under the age of 17.

Rubio has repeatedly said he would vote against a tax plan that does not sufficiently benefit the middle class, though he has previously stopped short of threatening to vote against the final plan due to the child tax credit until now.

Read more here.

December 13, 2017

Trump hints at an expanded child tax credit, an idea championed by Marco Rubio



President Donald Trump may have just handed Sen. Marco Rubio a long-awaited gift: an expanded child tax credit. 

During a White House speech on Wednesday, Trump referenced the child tax credit and said, "You'll hear the numbers very soon but they're even larger than anticipated." 

Trump's remarks came a day after GOP leaders proposed a higher corporate tax rate to pay for lower taxes on couples that make $1 million or more less than two weeks after they rebuffed Rubio's idea to raise corporate taxes to pay for an expanded child tax credit.

Rubio wasn't happy.

Rubio has been pushing for an expanded child tax credit for months, and the Florida Republican wanted to pay for it by imposing a small increase in corporate taxes. He said in in October that expanding the child tax credit to $2,000 from the current cap of $1,000 was a major priority and that he would vote against a tax bill that didn't help middle class families. 

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

But Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike Lee haven't publicly threatened to vote against the tax overhaul bill to create leverage for their demands. The Senate voted down their expanded child tax credit proposal two weeks ago, but Rubio and Lee voted for the bill.

The child tax credit reduces some families' tax bill for every child they have under the age of 17. 


Republicans are barreling towards a final vote on a tax overhaul that slashes personal and corporate taxes. They aim to vote on the final package before Christmas and they have added urgency to act fast after Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore in an Alabama special election on Tuesday. Once Jones is seated, Republicans will only control 51 of 100 seats in the upper chamber. Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker said he won't vote for the plan, leaving Senate Republicans with almost no room for dissent within the ranks. 

"We want to give you, the American people, a giant tax cut for Christmas," Trump said on Tuesday.