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Shaheen: GOP Tax Bill Would Hurt N.H. Homeowners By Eliminating Property Tax Deduction

Now that the Senate Budget Committee has passed the Republican tax plan, GOP leaders hope the full Senate will take it up this week.

While the fate of the bill is unclear, Democrats seem to be united against it, calling it a giveaway to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

New Hampshire Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen joined NHPR's Peter Biello to discuss the legislation.

Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity

Republican Senator John Cornyn has dismissed reports that Democrats have been shut out of the discussion on tax reform saying that Democrats can introduce amendments. Do you think that Democrats have been shut out of this process?

I do and I think it's a process that sadly has not been transparent for the public. It's been rushed. You know when we did tax reform over 30 years ago back in the 80s, it took two years to develop a bill. This is a bill that we're not going to have a chance to read before we're being asked to vote on it.

It does not simplify the tax code, it doesn't help middle class families it gives the biggest tax breaks to the wealthiest in this country and the biggest corporations. And what we need is something that's going to help our small businesses help middle income Americans help create jobs. This bill does none of those.

Is there anything at this point that Democrats can do to influence the tax bill in the Senate?

Well I think that's not at all clear. We will be offering amendments. But given the challenges we face with numbers it's not likely that any of our amendments will get approved. So I think what we're looking at is a tax bill that's going to go through. That's going to have significant ramifications for all Americans and particularly for people in New Hampshire where we pay very high property taxes.

This is legislation that's going to eliminate the property tax deduction. So about a third of Granite Staters use the state and local tax deduction so they're not taxed twice on property taxes that they pay. This bill would eliminate that under this tax bill.

Students would pay more in student loans, and all of this is done to help the top income earners in this country the wealthiest and the biggest corporations. You know the I had an event last week with realtors and home builders who were very worried about what this means for property values. And as they said to me 83%  of taxes are paid by homeowners. Why should they have to pay a higher tax burden so that the biggest corporations in this country can get a permanent tax cut? It doesn't make sense.

With respect to the deduction of state and local tax - if that repeal were removed from the tax bill or if it's kept as Senator Susan Collins of Maine suggested, would you support the bill or would you support that part of it?

Well that would certainly be helpful. But there's so many other things in this bill that just don't make sense that I would be hard-pressed to support, and I think what we need is to go back to the drawing board and have a real bipartisan process like we did the last time we revised the tax code.

You know I don't think making tax breaks for the wealthiest permanent so that, for example, the Trump family will gain about a billion dollars a year if this tax bill goes through. And yet if you make $75000 a year or less you're going to wind up paying more in taxes. After 2025. That doesn't make sense. One of the challenges we have in this country in terms of creating jobs is the income disparity that we have. We need to reduce that disparity not make it greater.

In your view has this discussion about taxes differed in style from the failed efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act?

Sadly it's been very much along the same lines. And that's the other piece that's in this Senate bill. It would eliminate the individual mandate which is going to throw thirteen million people off their health insurance and it's going to increase rates for millions of other people who are paying for their health insurance.

So again this is a tax bill that increases taxes for so many middle income Americans and that's not what we need right now. And it's been done behind closed doors without the benefit of public input, without the ability to work in a bipartisan way. We need to go back to committee go back to the drawing board and work together to produce a bill that's going to be in the long term interests of the country.

And it increases the debt in America by 1.5 trillion.

Have you been in touch with any Republican senators about your concerns about how the discussions moved forward?

The Republicans in Congress have been very clear that they're planning to pass this bill no matter how many concerns they hear from their colleagues from the public. As several people have said, "Our donors have told us if we don't pass this bill don't come back and ask for any more money."

It's a pretty cynical way to be looking at what we need to do in the interests of the country.