How Senator Portman Worked to Improve the Tax Reform Bill
Senator Portman praised the House-Senate conference agreement on the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, landmark tax reforms focused on helping middle-class families and creating more jobs with higher wages. After the final agreement was released, Portman said:
“Today marks another important milestone in our efforts to provide tax relief for middle-class families and reform our business tax code to create more jobs and increase wages for American workers. I look forward to both the House and Senate passing this legislation next week and the president signing these historic tax cuts before Christmas.”
Portman worked throughout the process to develop and help improve the bill, including adding several amendments during Senate consideration by the Senate Finance Committee. Here’s a quick rundown on how Portman worked to improve the tax bill both during Senate deliberations and the final conference agreement:
- Pushing for Middle-Class Tax Cuts. Throughout this debate, Portman has been consistently focused on ensuring that the middle class get a significant tax cut, and that the progressivity of the code is at least maintained if not made more progressive. In particular, he focused on lowering tax rates and expanding the child tax credit.
- Expanding Tax Relief for Small Businesses. Reforms to the business tax code are an essential component of this final agreement, especially lowering rates for small businesses, which Portman played a key role in developing. These pro-growth reforms will grow our economy, create more jobs, and make America more competitive with our foreign counterparts. According to the Tax Foundation, the Senate bill would help create nearly one million new American jobs, including more than 35,000 in Ohio. The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) endorsed the bill.
- Leveling the Playing Field for American Companies & Workers. Portman’s bipartisan work on international tax reform is a key component of this tax reform bill. In 2015, he chaired a bipartisan working group on international tax reform with Senator Chuck Schumer, now Minority Leader. Together they developed a bipartisan framework to reform the international tax code, transition from a worldwide to a territorial tax system, and give American companies a level playing field with their foreign competitors. The gist of that framework is now part of both the Senate-passed bill and the final agreement. Details about this 2015 effort can be found here.
- Preserving Private Activity Bonds (PABs). Both in the Senate-passed bill and the final agreement, Portman helped preserve private activity bonds, which are an essential source of funding for important infrastructure and community redevelopment projects across Ohio. The House bill eliminated PABs.
- Preserving the Historic Tax Credit (HTC). Portman is a strong supporter of the HTC and worked with Senator Cassidy to restore the current-law 20 percent credit level in both the Senate-passed bill and the final agreement after the House eliminated it entirely and an early draft of the Senate bill reduced it to 10 percent. The HTC encourages private investment in the rehabilitation of historic buildings. It has been used to preserve numerous historic Ohio buildings, including Cincinnati’s recently rehabilitated iconic Music Hall.
- Preserving the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC). While the House eliminated the New Markets Tax Credit, Portman led the effort to preserve it in the Senate bill and the final agreement. The NMTC helps economically distressed communities attract private capital for community redevelopment purposes, and Cincinnati has been a significant beneficiary. Earlier this year, Portman visited the Nehemiah Manufacturing Company, which is using the NMTC to expand and provide meaningful employment opportunities to ex-offenders re-entering society.
- Preserving the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Portman led the effort to preserve the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides employers with a tax credit for hiring and retaining veterans, ex-felons, disabled individuals, summer youth employees, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Supplemental Security Income recipients. A 2015 Portman amendment added a $2,400 credit for first year wages paid to the long-term unemployed. The House bill eliminated the tax credit.
- Helping Families Combat Unfair Tax on Student Loans. The final agreement includes Portman’s bipartisan Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act, legislation to eliminate a tax penalty levied on student loans forgiven for families after their child develops a permanent disability or dies.
- Promoting the Craft Beverage Industry in Ohio. The Senate-passed bill and the final agreement includes the bipartisan Craft Beverage Modernization & Tax Reform Act, legislation cosponsored by Portman that would provide excise tax relief to the growing craft beverage industry, helping these entrepreneurs reinvest more in their businesses and our communities. Ohio is number four in the country in craft beer production, and supports 15,000 jobs in the state.
- Preserving Worker Retirement Security. The Senate-passed bill and the final agreement includes a Portman amendment to protect small startup businesses’ ability to utilize nonqualified deferred compensation programs for millions of employees and retirees; remove a provision that would have subjected 457 plan participants like Ohio police and firefighters to a harmful 10 percent early distribution tax; and preserve the ability of all 401(k) participants to make catch-up contributions after age 50. Portman also worked with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) to preserve additional catch-up contributions available to 457 and 403(b) plans, including clergy in church pension plans. These amendments preserved retirement security incentives with a proven track record of success.
- Easing the Burden of High Medical Expenses. The Senate-passed bill and the final agreement includes changes from Portman’s Seniors Tax Hike Prevention Act which would allow seniors to deduct a greater share of their medical costs. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, all taxpayers at any age may take advantage of this expanded deduction.
- Preserving Key Higher Education Tax Incentives. Along with his colleagues in the Senate, Portman worked to preserve key tax incentives for undergraduate and graduate students, helping Ohio students struggling with the high cost of college.