Partisan politics holds up tax fix

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Photo above: U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) speaks with Eric Blackledge of HFA member Blackledge Furniture on Capitol Hill May 14.

An important tax correction continues to pick up bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, but it’s not out of the political swamp yet.

Home Furnishings Association members heard reasons to hope and cause to worry from Washington insiders last week. The annual Fly-in to the nation’s capital gives participants the chance to meet face-to-face with elected representatives, regulatory agency leaders and key staffers, express concerns and ask questions. The event is held in partnership with the American Home Furnishings Alliance.

A tax issue was one of the top subjects raised during the meetings.

“This needs to be fixed, it really does,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told the furniture industry leaders.

Manchin was an original co-sponsor of a Senate bill introduced to mend a drafting error in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that severely restricted the value of depreciation deductions for certain improvements of business property. The co-authors were Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democrat Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama.

HFA joins coalition to push tax bill

HFA is part of a broad coalition of business groups pushing for adoption of the Restoring Investment in Improvements Act.

“I think it will get done this year,” Danielle DuBose, a tax policy adviser for Sen. Toomey, told the HFA group.

It should, based on the nature of the correction and the number of Republicans and Democrats backing it. The Toomey-Jones bill has 29 co-sponsors and an identical measure in the House has more than 100. Yet, as HFA members heard last week, the measure has become entangled in partisan politics.

“The Democrats want Republicans to stew in every mistake,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), acknowledging there were many errors in the TCJA because it was hurried to approval by Republicans.

“There was a rush to get the bill passed as quickly as possible before the people hurt by it could come out against it,” Chris Arneson, a senior tax policy adviser to Senate Finance Committee Democrats, told HFA members. “It was an unfortunate process that led to an inevitable and unfortunate result.”

HFA participants didn’t argue but asserted that correcting this mistake would serve the positive purpose of helping retail businesses claim a fair tax deduction for investments in their commercial properties.

Caught up in politics

“We support this change,” Arneson said of Senate Finance Democrats, “but it’s going to require bipartisan cooperation.”

By that, he meant that Democrats want concessions from Republicans in return.

But Republicans aren’t willing to renegotiate the entire tax bill, Erica Suares, a policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, told HFA members earlier. If the correction is added to some other bill, she added, Democrats will “want to put in a million things.”

The apparent impasse frustrated HFA participants.

“It’s understandable why sausage makers take offense when being compared with lawmakers,” Rob Davis of HFA member Diakon Logistics in Warrenton, Va., observed later. “Certainly a sausage factory has more predictable and controlled processes.”

Not all members of Congress want to play political games, however. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) was the co-author of the House bill addressing the tax problem and said she’s willing to work with anyone from either party to see it passed. She doesn’t appreciate demands for concessions in return.

“If they want to do extortion, they’re on the wrong bus,” she said.

Get out of the swamp

The question is whether congressional leaders of both parties want to get on the right bus. HFA Fly-in participants expressed frustration last week that partisan gridlock could stall legislation that would benefit retailers who want to invest in their businesses, hire more employees and contribute to their communities. Those goals don’t belong to one party or the other and should not be drowned in a Washington swamp.

HFA urges members to contact their own representatives and senators and ask them to support this legislation.

Doug Clark is content manager and government relations liaison for the Home Furnishings Association. He can be reached at 916-757-1167.

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