Senate passes tax reform bill with Murkowski, Sullivan's votes
The U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive tax reform bill late Friday night authored by Republicans. The measure passed by a vote of 51 to 49, with no Democratic support.
Both of Alaska's U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, voted in favor of the bill as they said they would earlier this week. The legislation includes a section written by Murkowski that opens part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
"The combination of developing more of our natural resources and stimulating America’s economy through tax cuts will create opportunities for our nation and put more dollars back into the pockets of hard-working Americans," Murkowski said in a statement late Friday.
Sullivan echoed those thoughts in another statement.
“I was proud to cast a vote to reform our nation’s outdated tax system, and to unleash America’s energy potential by opening up the 1002 area of ANWR for energy production,” Sullivan added. “This tax reform bill will go a long way in helping hard-working, middle-class Alaskans, who are suffering due to a recession."
Both of Alaska's senators have additions to the controversial tax bill. The measure includes a provision by Sullivan which removes a tax hike on cruise lines' profits. Murkowski also authored an amendment to tax-exempt the money that Alaska Native corporations pay out to their shareholders in dividends.
The Senate bill lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. Tax rates will also be cut for individuals, though their tax cuts will expire after a decade. The Senate bill also repeals the individual mandate under Obamacare. The Senate bill also increases the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 among other things.
There are critics of the plan, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2019 people who make less than $30,000 a year will see a tax increase. According to its projections, people making less than $40,000 a year would see their taxes increase in 2021; by 2027, people making less than $75,000 a year would start paying more in taxes.
"I don't understand why the working people in America have to pay more taxes while the rich people have to pay fewer taxes under this bill. To me, it's going the wrong direction for our country," said Soren Wuerth from Anchorage.
The bill now heads to a conference where the House and Senate will work out their differences in their tax bills.
The Senate’s tax bill must still work through a conference committee process, where members from the House and Senate will work out the two legislative bodies' differences on the measure. As chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Murkowski told reporters Friday she hopes to be a member of that conference committee.
“That's not certain at this point in time, but my hope is that that would be so and also, we have certainly advocated Congressman Young, as the most senior Republican over there in the House, be (on) that committee, which I think will be very, very important, so we're going to push for that,” Murkowski said.
In a joint statement late last night, Congressman Don Young said he's proud of the work by Alaska's senators to maintain language in the bill that allows for opening the 1002 area of ANWR.
“As we move forward, particularly through the conference committee process, I will work with my House colleagues to ensure Alaska's interests are protected and our energy sector continues to be a global leader,” Young said.
Liz Raines contributed information to this story.
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