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Effort in Congress at Tax Reform This Fall
09/03/2013   Reported By: Mal Leary

Congress is scheduled to take a sweeping tax reform proposal this Fall. Committee leaders in both the House and Senate say they will work from a 'blank slate' , and review all tax breaks now on the books. While all four members of Maine's congressional delegation applaud the effort, they are pessimistic about the chances of reform being achieved this year.

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It is a rare occurrence in this Congress. Leaders of both parties in both branches on key committees agree on the need for tax reform. Even popular tax breaks, such as the home mortgage interest deduction and child care credit, are under scrutiny.

"Frankly I am really grateful for the fact that this seems to be one place where both the House and Senate are digging in and working on it, you know"
Democratic Representative Chellie Pingree says she's glad to see the issue is finally being brought forward in Congress.
"I'm just going to hope they come up with something that we?ll be able to have on the floor for a vote and we can really move forward on the issue. I think this would help restore a little bit of confidence of the public that rightfully feels we don't get a lot done down here."

Pingree says at minimum, Congress should take steps to simplify the tax code, and make it more fair. Republican Senator Susan Collins agrees.

"The aim should be to create a simpler, fairer more pro-growth tax code. It should.. ah simplification is extremely important. Someone once said that we need a tax code that looks like it was designed on purpose and instead we have one that is four million words long," says Susan Collins.
But, Collins warns that any proposal is likely raise opposition from special interest groups. Business lobbyists have been quick to push back arguing in defense of deductions and credits that help create jobs. Non-profits are actively opposing changes that would affect charitable contributions.

Independent Sen. Angus King says any signs of significant changes to the tax code are likely to spark intensive lobbying efforts.
" Every tax loophole or deduction or exemption that is in the tax code went in for some reason, for some policy reason. So I think they are doing the right thing to start from a blank sheet of paper, but from having tried to work on this through the budget committee, it is a lot easier to say than to do."

Another problem, King says, is that the parties have different goals for the process. Republicans want to reduce tax rates, he says, while democrats are more interested in reducing the federal budget deficit.
Congressman Mike Michaud, a democrat, says that is just one of the political obstacles that he believes could stand in the way of an agreement.
"I think that everything should be on the table but you are immediately going to get certain issues that will ah, we realize that will not have a chance of passing."

Michaud says he doubts there are enough votes to eliminate popular tax breaks this fall...and that any meaningful tax overhaul would take months to negotiate. Other members of the delegation agree that even though there will be an attempt at a package this Fall, it?s likely any action will be delayed until the New Year.



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