Nov 29 2017
Click here or on the image above to view today’s speech
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) spoke on the Senate floor today in support of the Senate’s tax reform proposal. In her remarks, Fischer outlines her main priorities during the tax cut and tax reform legislative process in the Senate. These priorities include delivering relief to the middle class, unleashing small business growth, and making our country competitive globally.
Senator Fischer’s full floor remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.
M. President, I rise today to speak about tax reform, which is so important for families in Nebraska and throughout this country.
The last time Congress comprehensively reformed the tax code was 1986.
We all agree reform is long overdue.
My priorities for tax reform have always been threefold: delivering relief to the middle class, unleashing small business growth, and making our country competitive globally.
This bill before us accomplishes these goals.
American families have struggled over the past decade, and too many in our country have found themselves living paycheck to paycheck.
Wages for workers have stagnated while the price of goods and services have continued to climb.
Things are only just starting to turn around.
As I have traveled across my state, Nebraskans have begun to tell me they are finally feeling confident about the economy again.
That needs to continue, and the best way to do it is by putting more money back into the pockets of regular Americans.
This bill does that in one of the best ways possible: by doubling the standard deduction and protecting the first $24,000 married couples earn, and the first $12,000 individuals earn, from federal taxes.
Increasing the standard deduction is pro-family and helps to foster the American Dream.
It not only leads to Americans keeping more of their hard-earned money, but it also means that simplifying the code will help them save money in tax preparation, as well.
According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, a married couple with two kids, making $85,000 per year, will see their taxes decrease by $2,224.
This reform provides money that will allow Americans to plan for the future and pay bills—it can be a down payment on a house or be put away for future college tuition or retirement.
It gives millions of earners more empowerment to use these savings for their lives as they see fit.
Simplifying the code isn't the only family-focused provision included in this legislation, however.
The Senate bill doubles the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child.
According to the Department of Agriculture, parents of a child born in 2015 are likely to spend more than $233,000 raising a child to age 17.
That doesn’t even include college tuition. Doubling the child tax credit will allow families to keep up to an additional $4,000 every year if they have two children or more.
This credit builds a stronger future by helping families all across our country keep more money to raise happy and healthy children.
In addition to these changes, this legislation will preserve many other popular deductions.
This includes the charitable deduction, medical expense deduction, the student-loan interest deduction, the mortgage-interest deduction, and the low-income housing tax credit.
This bill also continues popular savings programs, such as 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts.
These saving incentives are key tools that allow individuals to provide for their families and prepare for retirement. It empowers Americans to plan ahead.
There are also common-sense provisions in this bill that have been overlooked during the current debate.
These are changes everyone here can agree are long overdue.
For example, this reform takes away the tax-exempt status for professional sports leagues.
We all love sports, but professional sports leagues like the NFL and PGA shouldn't be allowed to use exemptions for non-profits to avoid paying taxes.
These are for-profit leagues where commissioners make tens of millions of dollars.
They should be treated for what they are: money-making enterprises.
I also want to take the time to address a misconception.
Some have argued that this bill will tax the tuition waivers graduate students receive from their universities as part of attending to their studies.
There is no such provision. Ph.D. research is a staple of higher education and drives our nation's innovation.
It helps us better understand our world and often leads to incredible technological advancements.
We in the Senate support graduate studies and none of us want to make it more difficult to obtain graduate degrees or do research at the highest level.
We will not be taxing you for tuition you don't pay while earning a masters or doctorate degree.
There are some other important provisions in this bill that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve, and I want to take a moment to discuss some of them.
The Senate tax reform retains nearly all of the education incentives that are present in the current tax code for students and teachers.
For example, we keep the Hope Credit, which allows taxpayers a credit of up to $2,500, per student, per year, for qualified tuition or related expenses.
We also keep both the Coverdell and 529 education savings accounts.
These accounts promote saving for school and help parents prepare for future tuition.
Finally, we double the educator deduction, which helps teachers make their classrooms as friendly for learning as possible.
This is a pro-education tax reform bill that acknowledges education is a key to our country's future success.
M. President, we must also recognize that our economy has changed over the last few decades and our tax code must catch up with the times.
We have the chance to make history with this reform—one that will help working families.
My Strong Families Act, which is included in the legislation, would be the first nationwide paid family leave policy in American history.
If we want to build a better future for our children, we must tackle problems for families juggling responsibilities between the home and workplace.
This plan has the potential to make life much easier for working families across our country by providing a tax credit as large as 25 percent for employers who offer up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to their employees.
Under programs set up by employers, employees would be able to take an hour, a day, or weeks off for purposes like taking a sick child or an ailing parent to a doctor’s appointment.
They could also take maternity or paternity leave to bond with a newborn or recently adopted child.
In 21st-century America, the number of dual-income households is on the rise. According to the Department of Labor, 70 percent of mothers with children under 19 participate in the labor force, with over 75 percent employed full-time.
For those without the means to take unpaid time off, the burdens of caregiving are a real burden.
A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that most individuals who make higher salaries usually have access to some kind of paid family leave, but those making less than that are not always covered.
This is why my paid family leave plan limits eligibility to those earning below $72,000 per year. We want these benefits to target hourly and lower-salaried workers. We want to increase access to paid family leave for those who need it most.
While my friends on the other side of the aisle focus on the stick approach to paid family leave, pushing mandates or the creation of new government programs, this bill pursues the carrot approach.
And Americans agree with us. A recent study showed that 87 percent of Americans supported a limited government approach that enables employers to provide the benefit themselves.
It's not hard to understand why. The plan balances the needs of 21st-century workers with the real-world challenges small businesses face today.
Eric Dinger, the CEO of a Lincoln startup named Powderhook, put it best.
He told me: “I want to offer my employees paid leave, but a mandate forcing me to do so would be hard.
I have to make payroll. [The Strong Family Act] is much more workable and wouldn’t provide a disincentive to hire anyone.”
Another of my constituents, Alison Ritter, an employee at Applied Systems, Inc. in Lincoln, Nebraska, is helping her company’s leadership develop a paid leave policy.
In reaction to my bill being included in the tax reform proposal before us, she told me that, “This concept would change the game for many newborn babies and their parents, allowing them the time they need to bond and establish a nursing routine without as much of the stress and guilt they face today.
It would provide families with the financial support they need in order to do what's best for their family, but also help businesses that struggle with putting a plan in place due to the financial burden extended absences create….Our country wins when we focus on and invest in healthier families.”
Sara Rasby, who is the co-owner of Lotus House of Yoga, which has locations across Nebraska, agreed.
“It is refreshing to see a policy that supports the family and small business unit," she said, "As co-owner of a small business and a mother of two young children, I know firsthand how challenging it can be without paid leave.
A mother and/or family needs time to adjust and bond....This bill will help parents, families, and small business owners be more at ease with the transitions and changes that come with maternity leave.
Additionally, it will create more community awareness on the importance of supporting the family structure through policy.”
We need to get this done for people like Eric, Alison, Sara, and other business owners, caregivers, and working parents throughout the country.
M. President, I also said my goal in this process is to promote policies that will ensure small businesses succeed.
There are over 29 million small businesses throughout our country, and these small firms drive our economy.
They have generated over 60 percent of the new jobs created over the last two decades and have made up nearly 98% of our exports.
They are often the face of our country to the world.
This reform will provide small businesses with additional incentives to invest and grow.
When small businesses make money, they invest it back into their businesses and help grow the local economy.
Places like Lincoln and Omaha are well known to the entrepreneurial community as bustling hubs of innovation.
This bill provides a 17.4 percent deduction for the large majority of small businesses, which will lower their tax bills and give them more financial flexibility.
The preservation of things like the 1031 like-kind exchanges and stepped-up basis will further help our small businesses, especially agriculture businesses.
Small businesses don’t have the professional resources to deal with a tax code that comes in at over 74,000 pages.
Simply doing taxes, let alone paying them, has become a burden on too many of our small companies.
Moreover, they can't take advantage of all the corporate deductions or little-known loopholes like big companies can.
This is not fair. It hurts our competitiveness globally, stifles strong economic growth, and favors big corporations, which have offices full of lawyers and accountants.
This tax reform lessens this disparity and deserves support from everyone who wants to promote American entrepreneurialism.
Lastly, this legislation goes a long way toward making America competitive internationally.
A large part of this is lowering the corporate tax rate. At 35 percent, America’s corporate tax rate is a full 13 percentage points higher than the average rate of our competitors from the developed world.
This is a big reason why companies are fleeing our shores and choosing to set up their headquarters or invest outside of America.
These so-called “inversions” have been on the rise in recent years, and there is little reason to think that trend will reverse if we stand by and do nothing.
This legislation will put us in line with our trading partners, and once again make America an attractive place for business, which will lead to more jobs and higher wages for workers in our country.
Although I am supportive of this bill as it stands today, I also hope we can make some progress on a compromise solution regarding the state and local tax deductions.
Most Nebraskans will tell you property taxes are too high. I agree.
That’s why I support working together on this issue as we continue to move forward on fixing our broken tax code.
M. President, overall the tax reform bill before this body is a chance to make the lives of all Americans better.
By focusing on relief for middle-class families, allowing small businesses to spend more time and money on their companies rather than the tax code, and making U.S. corporations more competitive globally, we will provide a more prosperous future to our country.
I urge support from my colleagues.
Thank you, M. President, I yield the floor.
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