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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Tax reform plan: Help for the middle class or a boon to the rich?

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and is joined by other GOP members as they talk about the Republicans' proposed rewrite of the tax code for individuals and corporations, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)
By Jim Camden and Betsy Z. Russell The Spokesman-Review

President Donald Trump’s announcement of planned tax reforms Wednesday drew praise from Republicans in the Washington and Idaho delegations, who said it would provide financial relief to working Americans and boost economic growth. Washington’s senior Democrat, meanwhile, criticized the plan as a way to help the rich at the expense of the middle class.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., called it “a mission to improve people’s lives” that would help people find good jobs, pay down loans or save for retirement.

“The best way to create opportunities for hardworking Americans and their families is through simplified, permanent tax reform,” McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking member of House GOP leadership, said in a news release.

Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, a member of the GOP’s conservative caucus sometimes at odds with his party’s establishment, said he was on board with the plan. It follows principles of a simpler, fairer and growth-oriented tax code, he said.

“Unleashing America’s entrepreneurial spirit requires we quit picking winners and losers, empower American families to keep more of what they earn, and allow businesses large and small to succeed,” Labrador said in a statement released by his staff.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called the plan a “broken promise” by Trump and congressional Republicans to put working families first, selling it with the idea that tax cuts to the wealthy would “trickle down” to everyone else.

“President Trump is merely paying lip service to the middle class while pushing yet another high-priced giveaway to millionaires, billionaires and the biggest corporations,” Murray said in a statement released by her staff. She urged families across the country to force Republicans to work with Democrats on a tax plan that gives priority to working families and the middle class.

Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., are prepared to fight any effort to eliminate the deduction for state sales tax, which was permanently added to the tax code in 2015. At a Senate Finance Committee hearing earlier this month on tax reform, Cantwell said she hoped senators from other states without an income tax would make it clear that any such a proposal was “dead on arrival.”

The plan announced Wednesday could eliminate the deduction for all state and local taxes.

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch said Senate Republicans are committed to tax reform. “The plan released today is a great starting point and I look forward to continuing our work on this,” he said in a statement emailed by staff.

Sen. Mike Crapo, the state’s senior Republican, said lowering rates is important, but shouldn’t be the sole focus of tax reform or the only measure taxpayers should use to evaluate it.

“We must address each one of the problems with the current tax code and present to the American taxpayer a reformed code with an emphasis on lower rates, broadening the base, reducing complexity and eliminating anti-competitive provisions,” he said in a statement released last Wednesday.