CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State policy advocates are opposing federal tax reform legislation because they say it would harm middle and working-class West Virginians.
“This tax bill is just another example of our government robbing from the poor to enhance the rich,” said Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers West Virginia, during a Tuesday press conference in Charleston.
Several groups joined together at the Covenant House to urge U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) to vote against the Senate’s tax reform bill.
Among the participating groups: the AFT West Virginia, the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, the West Virginia Council of Churches and the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its tax reform plan with a 227-205 vote. All three of West Virginia’s representatives — David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) and Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) — voted for the bill.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the bill would provide large tax cuts to corporations, repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and cause taxpayers to pay more over time due to a slower inflation adjustment.
“Think of it as a tax on sick people,” said health care advocate Renate Pore. “Everybody will pay more when you shrink that pool. Our goal has got to be to enlarge the pool and everybody will pay less.”
The CBPP estimates the number of people with health insurance would decrease by four million in 2019 and 13 million in 2027.
Karen Williams with the NAACP in Charleston said she depends on Medicare because she is a cancer survivor.
“So I’m facing the thought of what’s going to happen to Medicare and my diagnosis. I’m now cancer free, but I still have to go through surgery,” she said.
By ending the individual mandate,13 million people will lose coverage, premiums will increase by an additional 10 percent and premiums for the average family in West Virginia will cost an additional $2,180 per person by 2019, according to the CBPP.
Gary Zuckett, executive director of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said the bill would increase the federal deficit by nearly $1.5 trillion. He then proceeded to present a check for that amount of money to the “Millionaires, Billionaires and Big Corporations” paid for by “Medicare and Medicaid.”
Republicans, like Second District Congressman Alex Mooney, said Monday at a roundtable discussion that everyone — including the average West Virginian — would see a tax cut.
“The average tax break for West Virginia is $1,952, so you’re talking $170 a month or so and we think that’s important for the West Virginia tax payers to see that,” Mooney previously said.
The corporate tax rate would decrease from the current rate of 35 percent to 20 percent, according to the House plan.
But the CBPP estimates every income group below $75,000 would face tax increases over the next 10 years.
Caitlin Cook with the WVCBP said there will need to be forced spending cuts to health care, education and job training to make up for the loss.
The wealthiest five percent of tax payers will get 50 percent of the tax cut in 2019, Cook said. She said the benefits for the rich and big corporations will grow over time under both House and Senate versions.
“The wealthiest one percent would get six times the average amount of everyone else combined if the Senate’s plan is fully implemented. That means one in three tax payers will face a tax hike in 2027,” she said.
Trinity Mullins, a student West Virginia State University, fears the legislation would have a negative impact on her four year old daughter.
“This tax bill would not only damage me, but it would damage my daughter’s future and every other child’s future because they’re the ones that are going to have to deal with this long after we’re gone,” Mullins said.
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on their tax reform bill after the Thanksgiving holiday.