Tax reform 'blank slate' still blank

Tax reform 'blank slate' still blank

Posted in the Minneapolis Forum


Secaucus, NJ

#1 Jul 15, 2013
Senate Finance Committee leaders are running into a problem with their “blank slate” approach to tax reform: Many of their colleagues aren’t interested in filling in the blanks.

Sen. Max Baucus, the committee chairman, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, the panel’s top Republican, told fellow senators last month that they planned to move forward on an overhaul by stripping virtually every special provision — including popular items like the mortgage interest deduction — from the Tax Code. Senators have until July 26 to make their case to Baucus and Hatch for tax benefits that should remain on the books.

The whole point of the exercise is to maneuver around one of the central hurdles to tax reform: No politician wants to be responsible for killing special tax breaks, each of which enjoys a powerful constituency. Instead, Baucus and Hatch thought the better path would be to give their colleagues a chance to advocate for tax benefits that should stay in place.

But senators from both parties are reluctant to bite, confused by the process and fearful of being backed into a corner.

“I think there’s a danger in trying to identify certain provisions because almost by definition you’re excluding others,” said Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas.

“If you submit one, where do you stop?” asked Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

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