Greg Walden: Middle-class tax relief

News from Representative Walden

Click here or on the image above to view my remarks

I want to thank the nearly 2,000 Oregonians who called and wrote to me over the last month with suggestions on how we could improve the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to better fit our needs in Oregon.

The measure Congress will send to the President this week means that a hardworking family of four in eastern Oregon that earns about $50,000 a year — which is the median household income in my district — will receive a tax break of about $1,300 compared to the existing law.  Instead of a bloated federal government taking and spending your money, I want families to keep more of what they earn.  That’s $10,400 in lower federal income taxes over the next eight years for that one family.

Moreover, by nearly doubling the standard deduction, even fewer Oregonians will have to hire an accountant to search the 73,954 pages of the federal tax code only to discover darn few of the special interest loopholes apply to them.  We’re closing the loopholes and making filing your taxes as easy as filling out a postcard.

Nearly 70% of taxpayers in my district already take the standard deduction and don’t itemize.  Now, even more Oregonians can realize greater tax savings by simply taking the standard deduction, rather than itemizing.  These are the hard-working Oregonians that really could use a tax cut.

Wealthier taxpayers will get relief from the punitive alternative minimum tax, receive rate reductions in every tax bracket–like everyone else–and be able to deduct state income and property taxes up to $10,000 a year.

What does that mean across the country? A typical American family of four earning $73,000 a year, will see a 58% reduction in their federal taxes.

I listened to Oregonians who said how important the medical tax deduction is for them.  We changed the measure to actually increase the medical deduction from this year and next year for expenses exceeding 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income, and rising to 10 percent beginning in 2019.  More relief right away; continued medical deductibility going forward.

We preserved the mortgage interest deduction.  There’s NO change for existing mortgages holders, and going forward homeowners can deduct interest on mortgages up to $750,000 on first or second homes.  According to Zillow, the median home value in Oregon this year is $312,500.

When it comes to education and tax policy, I heard from many Oregon students and families about a number of provisions in the original measure. In the final version of the measure we got to a much better place by dropping the repeal of the student-loan interest deduction and dropping the taxation on graduate-school tuition waivers.

As we all know in Oregon, affordable housing is an ever-increasing problem, that’s why I opposed provisions to drop the housing tax credit and end private activity bonds.  Both of these are powerful tools used by communities across our state to help develop homes for families.  In the end, this measure preserves the low income housing tax credit and the tax-preferred status of private activity bonds.  These are big wins for Oregon.

In addition to providing historic and meaningful individual tax relief to Oregon families, this measure is also designed to rekindle job growth.  Few of us in Congress were job creators.  My wife and I spent more than 20 years as small business owners in the Columbia Gorge.  I can tell you from first-hand experience of growing a business and meeting a payroll, passage of this Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will help small businesses, family farms and ranches and those contractors with a truck and backhoe expand and grow.  I don’t need 100 economists to tell me that—even though they agree we’ll see a big economic gain.

Not only will the reduced tax rates help make more money available for wages and hiring, but also being able to fully expense the purchase of new equipment will really make a positive difference.

Globally, we’ll finally see American based companies bring money home and invest it here, rather than look for ways to shelter wealth overseas. America had one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.  That all changes under this legislation.  That’s why companies such as Intel now support passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  I worked closely with Intel and Nike, two of Oregon largest employers, to help get this final measure in a good place.  We got results that make a difference for them and for all of us.

Let me close by noting two other provisions in the bill.  One doubles the amount of the current exemption from the death tax.  Time and again I’ve heard from Oregon farmers and ranchers and small business owners about their fears of what would happen to their life’s work when they die.  A family shouldn’t have to sell off part of the ranch or liquidate a family business just to pay the taxman.  With an exemption of $11.2 million, that problem just went away for most.

Finally, I heard a lot from Oregon’s craft beer and wine makers about their support for a tax reform provision that reduces the federal excise tax for both beer and wine.  Given the growth and importance of both industries in Oregon, I successfully advocated for keeping the Republican Senate provision in the final package.

Like a good wine, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act got better as provisions from both houses were blended together over time.  The long and public process allowed people from across the country, and especially here at home in Oregon, to help shape and improve this historic legislation.

Today, the Washington special interest lobbyists lost, and the hard-working American taxpayers and job creators won.

To read more about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, please click here.

It is an honor to represent you in Congress.

Best regards,

Greg Walden
U.S. Representative
Oregon’s Second District

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