Murkowski, Sullivan say they’re yes votes on GOP tax bill
Alaska’s U.S. senators are set to vote in favor of a hotly contested tax reform bill, giving President Donald Trump’s proposal some crucial support as its GOP backers court individual votes.
Karina Petersen, a spokeswoman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, said at midday Wednesday that Murkowski would vote yes on the bill, which was opened to Senate floor debate on a party-line 52-48 vote Wednesday afternoon. Republicans have been working to assuage at least half a dozen potential defectors’ concerns about the bill, which has been criticized as offering disproportionate tax benefits to the wealthy.
"The bill before us has a number of features that are very attractive to Alaskans," Murkowski said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "It lowers tax rates, doubles the child tax credit, and provides tax relief for many families by doubling the standard deduction. It promotes economic growth, employment, and investment by improving the tax code for corporations and small businesses. And it removes the tax penalty for those who do not wish to purchase health insurance that they cannot afford or that offers little value to them."
The Senate tax bill incorporates a provision allowing drilling in a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, following Capitol Hill testimony by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and others earlier this month. Murkowski, who was among GOP defectors who defeated a health-care bill in the Senate this summer, has been a longtime supporter of ANWR drilling.
Murkowski mentioned that addition to the measure as a factor in her support for it Wednesday.
"We still have work to do on this legislation and I look forward to the debate on the Senate floor and my colleagues’ ideas to further improve it," Murkowski said.
Sen. Dan Sullivan, Alaska’s junior U.S. senator, issued a statement Tuesday saying he was in favor of the tax bill. During an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, he suggested that the bill would help raise annual growth of the nation’s gross domestic product from under 2 percent to as much as 3.5 percent.
"We'll have much more of an opportunity for bringing in more revenue,” Sullivan said during the interview. “And, look, that brings another point. Everybody is saying who is going to benefit? I think the person who is going to benefit the most is the person who doesn't have a job now, who is going to get one because of the strong growth we're going to see out of this economy.”
While both senators have praised the measure’s reduced tax rates, the Congressional Budget Office released a cost estimate for the plan predicting by 2019, people who make less than $30,000 annually will see a tax increase. The analysis also predicts people making less than $40,000 a year will see a tax rate increase by 2021 and by 2027, people making less than $75,000 annually will start to receive a tax rate increase, while those making more than $75,000 annually will not.
"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 Anchorage resident Soren Wuerth.
Wuerth joined others in Downtown Anchorage Tuesday, to protest the tax plan.
“This is all about rich corporations and rich shareholders, and they're the ones that are going to have the great windfall from the Republican tax repeal,” said Dario Notti.
Director of the Protect Our Care Alaska Coalition Andre Horton fears the bill will only hurt health care costs if the individual mandate is removed and cuts outlined in the plan go through.
“It's about $1.8 billion in Alaska, that's how much money we spend on Medicaid, and that's a little less than third of our budget, so getting $25 billion cut from Medicaid nationally, we have no idea what the implications would be for our state, but from what I can tell, that's gonna be very tough on Alaskans,” Horton said.
If the Senate tax bill passes, it will still have to be reconciled with the House version before it goes to President Trump for his signature.
Emily Carlson, Daniella Rivera and the Associated Press contributed information to this story.
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