MAYS LANDING — About two dozen people rallied outside the office of U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo on Monday in protest of Republican-backed tax bills they say will raise taxes on many in New Jersey.
The rally, organized by Action Together New Jersey, was part of a statewide effort to urge Republican members of Congress to vote against the tax-reform bill.
“There is no evidence to suggest that by cutting taxes on the wealthiest among us that we, the middle class, are going to be any better off,” said Tanzie Youngblood, a Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat LoBiondo will retire from in 2019. “This tax bill puts us in debt, and it puts us in danger of having many social programs cut.”
The local rally was headlined by speeches from Atlantic County Freeholder-elect Caren Fitzpatrick, Youngblood and fellow Democratic congressional candidate Sean Thom. The main talking point, by candidates and residents alike, was that the theory of “trickle-down economics” does not serve middle-class families across the country.
The House of Representatives and the Senate recently passed their own versions of tax reform that would significantly change the federal tax structure in the United States. Proponents of the legislation say it will simplify the tax code and lessen the tax burden on U.S. citizens by increasing the standard deduction and child tax credits. Proponents also say decreasing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, something that is in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, will increase competition among businesses and create jobs.
Opponents of the legislation say the reforms are “gifts” to the wealthiest people in the country and that vital programs such as Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid will be cut to pay for the lost revenue. They also fear education spending could be slashed to help pay for the tax cuts.
“I look at the impact on education and the removal of the student loan tax credits and see that as unacceptable,” said Thom, of Millville. “We need to recognize where the taxation needs to start and where it needs to come from.”
With both versions of the legislation passing, the two chambers are tasked with combining their legislation to create one tax bill. If they do that, it must pass both chambers again before it can be signed by President Donald Trump. No vote has been scheduled.
House Republicans have a bigger cushion than Senate Republicans in passing a final measure or conference report.
Assuming all Democrats remain opposed to the measure, the Senate can lose just two GOP votes — with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote — but the House can lose 22 votes to opposition and the bill would still pass.
Only 13 Republicans voted against the tax bill the House passed Nov. 16. Of those “no” votes, 12 came from members from the high-tax states of New York, New Jersey and California over concerns about the partial elimination of the state and local tax deduction, also known as SALT.
LoBiondo voted against the House version of the bill, saying it would negatively affect his constituents in South Jersey.
The 2017 gubernatorial race was the second most expensive race for governor in New Jersey history.
“When the House tax reform legislation was introduced, I said my support was dependent on preserving key deductions critical to taxpayers in my high-tax state of New Jersey,” LoBiondo said after voting against the bill. “As hard-working South Jersey residents already face excessive taxes from Trenton, I cannot support compounding the financial burden by eliminating their state and local income-tax deductions, capping their property-tax deductions and removing deductions for medical or education expenses.”
GOP leaders are working on a proposal to partially restore the deduction for state and local income taxes, which is fully repealed in both chambers’ bills, to address the concerns of California Republicans. But the Senate would have to agree to that in conference.
That’s just one of many issues the two chambers will have to tackle. Other House priorities include eliminating expiration dates for tax cuts for individuals, fully repealing the estate tax and maintaining the corporate rate at no higher than 20 percent.
Protesters at the rally said they are not necessarily against reforming the tax code, but they are opposed to the current legislation.
“This tax bill is not good for Americans,” Fitzpatrick said. “The one thing that sticks in my mind is that you can’t get a deduction for going to college, but if you happen to buy a private jet, there is a tax deduction. We’re all in luck for that one.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.