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Eye on Boise: Crapo parts with Bowles, Simpson over deficits to back tax cut

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, shown on Nov. 28, 2017 at a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. (Carolyn Kaster / AP)

Anti-deficit activists Alan Simpson, the former GOP senator from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, the former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, spoke out against the GOP tax plan when it was on the verge of a vote in the Senate last week, warning, “Real tax reform can provide a boost to the economy, but higher debt works in the opposite direction.” The Senate tax bill would add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Simpson and Bowles co-chaired the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, on which Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo served. The panel proposed a far-reaching plan in 2010 to cut the deficit through a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, but it failed to win the required supermajority support of 14 of its 18 members. Crapo was among the 11 commission members supporting the plan. He’s also partnered with Simpson and Bowles and their Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget repeatedly over the years on deficit issues – but Crapo parted from them last week and supported the bill.

“Unfortunately, the tax plan currently under discussion in Congress ignores nearly all the hard choices we proposed – incorporating only the ‘goodies,’” Simpson and Bowles wrote in a guest opinion that ran in the Washington Post and was distributed nationwide. “It reads as if it were developed for a country whose debt problems have been solved, when in reality debt is the highest it has ever been other than around World War II.”

They warned, “With debt already twice as high as the historical average, financing tax cuts with even more borrowing is reckless. And the actual bills in the House and Senate are even worse than the $1.5 trillion sticker price – because both include about a half-trillion dollars in phony savings from artificial ‘sunsets’ and other gimmicks. With interest, that means these tax cuts could add $2.2 trillion to the debt.”

“If the tax cuts in the current bill are adopted, deficits would exceed $1 trillion by 2020 and debt would exceed 99 percent of GDP by 2027,” Simpson and Bowles wrote. “Economic growth isn’t going to wash away this debt. Real tax reform can provide a boost to the economy, but higher debt works in the opposite direction. … This country cannot afford another debt-busting tax cut.”

Crapo said in a statement that he didn’t believe the bill would increase the deficit, due to economic growth he said would be spurred by the bill’s tax cuts. Crapo, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, said the tax-cut bill “will ignite our economy with levels of growth not seen in generations.”

A follow-up statement from Crapo’s office said, “Regarding the Simpson-Bowles op-ed, the Senator is disappointed that their economic modeling does not correctly account for the economic growth and revenue that will be generated by the Senate’s tax proposal.”

While various analyses of the tax bill set differing amounts for its impact on the deficit, all eyes last week were on a much-awaited “dynamic” scoring of the bill from the Joint Committee on Taxation, designed to take into account economic growth, which was issued on Friday. Its verdict: Even after accounting for economic growth, the bill would increase the deficit by $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

Fulcher gets superPAC backing

FreedomWorks, a national advocacy and campaign group associated with the tea party movement, has announced its endorsement of Russ Fulcher in the race for Idaho’s open 1st District congressional seat in 2018. Fulcher, a former GOP state senator from Meridian, is facing a crowded GOP primary next May, with rivals including current state Reps. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Christy Perry, R-Nampa; former Idaho attorney general and Lt. Gov. David Leroy; and several other candidates.

FreedomWorks for America President Adam Brandon said in a statement, “We are confident that Russ Fulcher will be a leader for our conservative values.”

FreedomWorks was originally formed as Citizens for a Sound Economy in 1984 by brothers Charles and David Koch, the wealthy oil industry titans and libertarian activists; the group split in 2004 into the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity and another group that was renamed FreedomWorks. The group was chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey after he retired from Congress in 2002, until he left in a bitter split in 2012 that included an $8 million consulting deal.

FreedomWorks for America is a “superPAC” formed in July of 2011 by FreedomWorks Inc. It has raised and spent millions in U.S. House and Senate campaigns.

Lobbyist fee gets a look

Idaho’s $10 fee to register as a lobbyist came in for scrutiny by lawmakers last week, after Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, asked how long it had been since the fee had been raised.

“It hasn’t changed since 1974 when it became law,” responded Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst. “Although we’ve had lobbyists from outside of Idaho come in, they’re amazed at the $10 registration fee. Others are between $25 and $300 to register as lobbyists. So there’s a lot of leeway if you want to increase it – we won’t oppose that.”

Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, noted that it’s $10 per client each year; not $10 per lobbyist, so lobbyists with multiple clients pay more.

Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, co-chair of the Legislature’s interim committee on campaign finance reform, said, “The last time I looked there were 425 registered lobbyists.” She suggested the lobbyists in the room go back to their group, “if you guys would like to discuss that, come up with a reasonable fee to help us implement this.”

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