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Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: Republicans are ramming through a bad tax bill

There is bipartisan agreement that we need tax reform that focuses on the middle class and helps small businesses create jobs.

We can do this in a fiscally responsible way, but that requires Republicans and Democrats working together as we did the last time Congress passed tax reform 30 years ago.

Unfortunately, the bill rammed through the United States Senate two weeks ago in the dead of night on a party-line vote fails to achieve those goals

Instead, the bill is a partisan document that adds $1.5 trillion to the national debt and asks the middle class — including New Hampshire homeowners and students — to pay for steep tax cuts for the wealthy and largest corporations.

Nonpartisan analysis has shown that the 572,000 taxpayers fortunate enough to earn more than $1 million a year get an average tax cut of $59,000 under this tax bill. The 90 million Americans who earn less than $50,000 a year, on the other hand, receive a cut of $160 — or $7.50 a paycheck.

Several studies show that by 2027, taxpayers making less than $75,000 a year will see a tax increase under this bill, on average.

Not only is the bill unfair, but it is also not a smart way to grow our economy. Many in New Hampshire are already nervous and for good reason.

Realtors and homebuilders have told me this bill is nothing short of an attack on homeownership in New Hampshire.

Repealing the state and local tax deduction would be a huge hit to middle-class families in New Hampshire. More than 200,000 Granite State homeowners — a third of taxpayers in New Hampshire — use the state and local tax deduction to avoid double taxation.

Homeowners are also concerned about limiting the mortgage interest deduction, including interest on home equity lines of credit that will disadvantage Granite Staters. Fourteen percent of New Hampshire homeowners have a home equity line of credit, compared to 3.8 percent nationwide. These changes will depress New Hampshire home values by as much as 18 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors, equivalent to the decline we saw during the financial meltdown in 2008.

This bill will also make it harder for New Hampshire to address its education and skills training challenge. A provision in the House tax bill taxes graduate students on tuition assistance. A graduate student in New Hampshire told me he lives on a $20,000 stipend. Under the House bill, he will have to pay $5,000 of that in taxes.

New Hampshire’s graduating class of 2016 had the highest per capita student loan debt in the country — an average of $36,367. The House bill eliminates the ability of 80,000 Granite Staters to deduct the interest on these student loan payments.

At a time when New Hampshire businesses are having trouble finding skilled workers, the last thing we should be doing is making education more expensive.

Tax reform should also help small business owners focus on what they do best — running their businesses. This bill will instead produce more red tape and complexity. A recent poll found a majority of small business owners oppose the plan. Small businesses are especially concerned about the impact this tax bill will have on the national debt. In fact, 61 percent of small business owners oppose raising the debt by $1.5 trillion to pay for tax cuts.

Republicans missed an opportunity to consider tax changes that would benefit the middle class, homeowners, students and small business job creators. Instead, their rushed and chaotic process has produced a massive giveaway to large corporations and high-income households at the expense of Granite Staters who need tax relief.

Unsurprisingly, polls show that the American public isn’t onboard. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress are rushing to pass this legislation by the end of the year, regardless of public opposition.

This tax bill is exhibit A on why bipartisan cooperation on legislation is so necessary, especially when it touches the lives of so many people. Congress has to do better.

Republicans and Democrats need to be at the table together to find common ground. That’s what Granite Staters expect. When this final legislation comes to the Senate floor, I’ll vote no and continue to urge Congress to prioritize tax changes that meet the immediate needs of the middle class and small businesses.

Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from Madbury, represents New Hampshire in the United States Senate.