Taxes, Debt, Spending

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Democrats, Republicans Agree to Big Spending Increase

 

Bipartisanship flourished in Washington this week. While the parties have major differences, it seems the one thing that Democrats and Republicans can both agree on is a spending increase of $500 billion over two years.

 

Members of the two parties came together to pass a continuing resolution that would keep the government open until March 23, but eliminates caps on military and domestic spending that have been in place for most of this decade.

 

Here are some key features of the agreement that will add $320 billion to the deficit:

  • Sixty percent of the spending increase goes to the military, the rest is for domestic programs.
  • It includes $90 billion in disaster relief for Puerto Rico.
  • There are targeted tax breaks for a variety of activities, including rum production, wind energy development, geothermal projects, and film production.
  • It raises the debt ceiling until 2019.

 

Republicans pushed for the military spending increases. For Democrats, the package prevents scheduled cuts for Medicare and Medicaid, has nearly $6 billion for Child Care Development Block Grant, and $20 billion in money for infrastructure (which includes rural broadband funding), among other things.

 

Not everyone was thrilled with the bill, however. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) used procedural motions to block quick approval of it. He was opposed to the size of the spending increases and the fact that it will add significantly to the deficit. On the Senate floor, he said:

 

I ran for office because I was very critical of [Barack] Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits. Now we have Republicans hand-in-hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits… I can’t in all good honesty, in all good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits.

 

Sen. Paul’s delaying tactics prevented the bill from being passed and signed by the president by midnight on February 8, which is when funding for government operations ran out. This led to a brief five-hour shutdown of the federal government. Eventually, however, both the Senate (on a vote of 71-28) and the House of Representatives (on a vote of 240-186) passed the resolution, which President Trump signed.

 

Do you support increasing federal spending by $500 billion over the next two years? Or do you think it is a bad idea to grow the deficit?

 

The Government is Open – For Now

 

After a shutdown that lasted for a weekend and one workday, the federal government is re-open and running. However, two large questions remain after this brief shutdown: Will Congress hold a vote that provides “Dreamers” protection from deportation? And, will the government shut down again after the short-term funding bill expires in February?

 

Dreamers

 

A solid block of Democratic senators voted against a government funding bill on January 19. Needing to reach a 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not have sufficient votes to advance this bill through the Senate. What followed was a brief shutdown.

 

The Democrats were upset that this funding measure did not resolve the situation of individuals covered under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). These individuals, known as “Dreamers,” were brought to the country illegally by their parents. President Obama issued an order giving some of them protection from deportation. President Trump revoked that directive, and asked Congress to act on legislation that would codify legal protection.

 

When President Trump, Congressional Republicans, and Congressional Democrats could not agree on the details of a DACA bill, Democrats in the House and Senate voted against short-term funding legislation. After days of negotiations, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reversed course upon assurances by Sen. McConnell that a bill containing DACA protections would be brought to the floor of the Senate for consideration. Sen. McConnell also said this bill would include other immigration measures.

 

A Long-Term Funding Fix

 

The measure approved by the Senate only provides funding for the government through February 8.

 

With Congress failing to pass individual appropriations bills to fund the various federal agencies, the operations of the federal government are dependent on either continuing resolutions (which fund the government at the previous year’s levels) or omnibus appropriations bills (which combine smaller spending bills into one larger bill).

 

For the federal government to continue operating past February 8, the House and Senate must pass either another continuing resolution or an omnibus appropriations bill. Efforts to do this are complicated by spending limits that are in place due to the 2013 sequester legislation. That agreement put caps on defense and discretionary spending. These caps can be lifted, and have been in the past. But there is no agreement among members of the two parties on how to lift the caps for this fiscal year (which began on October 1, 2017).

 

It seems unlikely that such an agreement can be reached by early February. That means that there will be another short-term continuing resolution to give congressional negotiators more time to accomplish this.

 

What do you think about the government shutdown? What path should Congress take on immigration and spending?

 

Congress Key Votes – Taxes, Spending, Class-Action Lawsuits, “She Persisted”

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Congress earlier this year, and go to www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

U.S. House Bill 1, Reduce tax rates and eliminate some deductions: Passed 51 to 49 in the U.S. Senate on December 2

To set new federal income tax rates (10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 38.5%) to replace the current tax rates (10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6%), increase the standard deduction ($12,000 for single filers, $18,000 for heads of household, and $24,000 for joint filers), eliminate the mandate that individuals must purchase health insurance, increase the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000, cut the corporate income tax rate from 39% to 20% starting in 2019, authorize a 23 percent deduction for income from smaller businesses whose earnings are taxed at the owner's individual tax rate, double the estate tax exemption, and more. The individual income tax provisions sunset in 2025.

 

U.S. House Bill 1, House version of federal income tax cuts and reform: Passed 227 to 205 in the U.S. House on November 16

To create four new federal income tax rates (12%, 25%, 35%, and 39.6%) that would replace the seven current rates (10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6%), increase the standard deduction (to $12,200 for single filers, $18,300 for heads of household, and $24,400 for joint filers), eliminate a deduction for state and local tax payments (except homeowners could still deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes), limit the mortgage interest deduction to loans under $500,000, increase a child tax credit from $1,000 to $1,600, cut the corporate income tax rate from 39% to 20% starting in 2020, cut and phase-out the federal estate tax, and more.

 

U.S. House Bill 601, Fund disaster-related programs, raise the debt ceiling: Passed 316 to 90 in the U.S. House on September 8 and 80 to 17 in the Senate on September 7

To provide $7.4 billion in direct funding for Hurricane Harvey disaster relief, $450 million to the Small Business Administration’s disaster loans program, and $7.4 billion in general disaster spending. As “emergency” spending, this funding is exempt from budget controls aimed at controlling the deficit. The bill also raises the federal debt limit and funds federal government operations for another three months.

 

U.S. House Bill 985, Restrict class action lawsuits: Passed 220 to 201 in the U.S. House on March 9

To prohibit lawyers from bringing class action lawsuits unless the individuals in the lawsuit have suffered the same type and scope of injury. The bill also mandates that lawyers who successfully bring class action lawsuits get paid only after the victims collect any damage awards.

 

U.S. Senate Motion 57, Affirm Senator Warren broke Senate rules: Passed 49 to 43 in the U.S. Senate on February 7

To uphold the ruling of the chair that Senator Elizabeth Warren broke Senate Rule 19, which prohibits any senator from “imput[ing] to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator." Senator Warren had been reading a letter by Coretta Scott King about Senator Jeff Sessions, whom President Trump had nominated to be Attorney General. The chair had ruled that by reading certain sections of this bill, Sen. Warren had disparaged her colleague, Sen. Sessions.

 

Key Pennsylvania Votes on Budget, Regulations, and Taxes


Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Pennsylvania earlier this year, and go to 
www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 542, Collect tax on Internet sales: Passed 102 to 88 in the House on October 17 and 29 to 21 in the Senate on October 25

To mandate that remote sellers with sales over $10,000 collect Pennsylvania’s sales tax. The bill also removes the $5 million cap on the net operating loss deduction for Pennsylvania businesses and allow the sales of fireworks to Pennsylvanians with a special 12% tax, among other things.

 

Senate Bill 181, Establish performance-based budget review: Passed 180 to 4 in the House and 50 to 0 in the Senate on October 25

To direct the Secretary of Budget to review agency budgets based on performance instead of on subtracting or adding to traditional spending levels. Under a performance-based review, an agency would have to show how its proposed spending is being allocated to meet certain performance goals and benchmarks. The bill would allow the Secretary to undertake a review at least once every five years, and the General Assembly could also request such a review. The bill also directs the state to undertake a review of the effectiveness of various state tax credits.

 

Senate Bill 561, Mandate legislative review of expensive regulations: Passed 29 to 20 in the Senate on June 13

To mandate that the General Assembly approve regulations that impose more than $1,000,000 in annual costs to the commonwealth, local governments, or the private sector.

 

House Bill 1071, Ban bag taxes: Passed 102 to 87 in the House on April 25

To prohibit local governments from imposing a tax, surcharge, or ban on plastic bags.

 

House Bill 291, Exempt children younger than 21 from inheritance tax: Passed 176 to 21 in the House on April 4

To exempt a transfer of property to a child 21 years or younger from the state’s inheritance tax.

 

Senate Advances Tax Legislation

 

At 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, the Senate voted 51-49 in favor of legislation that would reshape the nation’s tax code. The Republicans who supported this bill say that it will provide much-needed tax relief for families and boost the economy. Democrats contend that it is a giveaway to the rich that will dramatically increase the deficit.

 

Here are some of the major provisions in this tax bill:

  • Retains the current seven tax brackets, but reduces the top marginal rate to 38.5% and cuts rates in other brackets
  • The standard deduction increases to $12,000 from $6,500 for single filers, $18,000 from $9,500 for heads of households, and $24,000 from $12,500 for joint filers
  • Increases the child tax credit to $2,000 from $1,000
  • The phase-out for the child tax credit starts at $500,000 (compared to $110,000 today)
  • Lowers the corporate income tax rate to 20% from 35% starting in 2019
  • Creates a higher exemption for the corporate minimum tax
  • Exempts $11.2 million from the estate tax, up from $5.6 million now
  • Repeals the individual health insurance mandate under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare

 

The individual income tax changes are set to expire in 2025. This was done to give the bill a more favorable budget score, which helps ease passage. Some observers expect that these provisions of the bill would be made permanent in the future, since members of Congress will be hesitant to allow (in effect) a tax increase to tax place upon their expiration. However, there is no guarantee that this will occur.

 

All Senate Democrats opposed it. Every Senate Republican except Bob Corker of Tennessee supported it.

 

The Senate bill differs in some key respects from the House tax cut legislation. These differences must be resolved in a conference committee, then the same bill must be passed by both house of Congress and signed by the president. Given the commitment by Republicans in both branches, this process should proceed fairly quickly. It is also possible that the House of Representatives could pass the Senate version of the bill. Whatever happens, it is likely that President Trump will have tax legislation on his desk to sign before the end of the year.

 

Do you support the tax cuts in the Senate bill? Or do you think that this legislation is the wrong way to reform the tax code?

 

Governor Wants Changes to Colorado Pensions

 

Colorado has a $43 billion pension system, paying or promising retirement benefits to scores of state employees. However, this pension system faces trouble with its $32.2 billion in unfunded liabilities. In other words, the state’s politicians have promised retirees a more generous retirement package than what these politicians have actually saved money to give them. Unless the state acts, either taxpayers will be forced to cover this large gap or retirees will see their benefits drastically reduced.

 

Governor Hickenlooper’s recently released budget suggests a few options to deal with this issue. His budget has proposed reducing employees’ guaranteed cost-of-living adjustment from 2% to 1.25%. He would also like to require employees to pay an additional 2% into the pension plan, which would bring their total contribution up to 10%. In return, state employees would receive a 3% pay increase in the next fiscal year.

 

This plan takes elements from a plan put forward by the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, the board that manages the state pension system. The board’s recommendations included increasing the retirement age for newly-hired state employees, cap cost-of-living adjustments at 1.5%, and increase the amount that state agencies pay into the system on behalf of employee retirement.

 

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, supports a reform that require the state to assume a lower rate of return for pension investments. Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg has suggested the state consider moving to a retirement plan that is similar to a 401(k), which relies not on a defined benefit (like a pension) but instead on a defined contribution from the state.

 

Legislators will take up the issue of pension reform when they convene in January.

 

Do you think that Governor Hickenlooper is right to require state employees to pay more into their retirement system? Or should Colorado end traditional pensions and move state employees to something like a 401(k)?

 

Tax Cuts May Be Coming

 

On Thursday, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee unveiled a blueprint for tax reform. While details will change as the bill makes its way through Congress, Rep. Kevin Brady’s outline appears to have broad support among Republicans. The “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” is likely to be very close to what actually emerges if Congress passes a tax bill this year.

 

Here are a few of this bill’s changes to the current code: (more complete details are available from the Tax Foundation here):

  • Reduce tax brackets from seven to four
  • Increase the standard deduction from $6,350 to $12,000 for single filers, $9,350 to $18,000 for heads of households, and $12,700 to $24,000 for joint filers
  • Repeal itemized deductions except for mortgage interest, charitable, and property tax deductions (property tax deduction would be capped at $10,000)
  • Cap the mortgage interest deduction for new home purchases at $500,000 of principle
  • End the alternative minimum tax
  • Replace the exemption for dependents with a higher child tax credit, and increase the amount of income taxpayers could earn before this credit is phased out
  • Lower the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 20%
  • Repeal the estate tax after 6 years, and in the meantime increase the amount of the estate exempt from tax to $10 million (indexed for inflation)

 

Due to the passage of a budget resolution in October that allows for tax reform to be considered under an expedited process not subject to Senate filibuster, this tax legislation will only need a majority of votes in the House and Senate. If Congressional Republicans can remain united and devote time to moving it through the legislative process, it is possible that they could present this bill to President Trump by the end of the year.

 

Do you think that the House GOP is on the right track with its proposed changes to the tax code? Or would you prefer to see other tax reforms being discussed?

 

Michigan Takes Stand against Soda Tax

 

If Michigan senators get their way, local governments in that state will soon be banned from enacting a “soda tax” targeting sugar-sweetened drinks (or any other food).

 

Here’s how VoteSpotter described legislation passed on October 4:

 

Senate Bill 583 Ban local taxation of food and food services: Passed 31 to 5 in the Senate

To prohibit local governments and authorities from imposing a tax or fee on the manufacture, distribution, wholesaling or retail sale of food for immediate consumption or non-immediate consumption.

 

A handful of cities across the nation have passed taxes targeting sugar-sweetened drinks. Philadelphia, for instance, imposed a 1.5 cent tax on many beverages, including those sweetened artificially. Other cities with a similar tax include Oakland and San Francisco in California, Boulder in Colorado, and Seattle. Chicago also has a soda tax, but city council members are considering repealing it.

 

These taxes are aimed at promoting healthier consumption, although some experts dispute that they accomplish this goal. As discussed in a previous VoteSpotter blog, Philadelphia’s experience appears to show that they do affect consumer behavior but may harm businesses and workers.

 

States have ultimate authority over laws passed by city governments, which means soda taxes can be invalidated by state legislative action. Michigan senators are attempting to do this pre-emptively, since no local government in that state has such a tax. If SB 583 passes the House and is signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder, no city would have the power to impose such a tax in the future.

 

Do you support state action to stop local governments from imposing soda taxes? Or do you think taxing sugar-sweetened drinks is a good policy for cities to enact?

 

Congress Set to Tackle Tax Cuts

 

One of President Trump’s major legislative priorities is set for introduction in Congress: tax reform. While details are not yet finalized, there appears to be agreement between the White House and congressional Republicans on general changes to the tax code. What remains to be seen is if any legislative package this complex can emerge from Capitol Hill to be sent for the president’s signature.

 

Once details are finalized, we could see a tax reform bill introduced this week. Here is what may be in such a bill:

  • Cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%
  • Cut the top individual income tax rate from 39.5% to 35%
  • Reduce the number of tax brackets from 7 to 3

 

While the president and congressional Republicans appear to agree on these aspects of the bill, they could change. President Trump, for instance, has repeatedly said that he would like to see the corporate income tax rate lowered to 15%.

 

There is also the issue of what, if any, changes to the tax code will be made to offset the effect of cuts on the federal deficit. There has been talk about reducing the number of tax breaks, but each deduction or credit in the tax code has a constituency that will fight very hard to keep that provision. If no offsets are made, tax cuts threaten to increase the budget deficit.

 

Whatever the final version, tax reform legislation will be complex and will face a difficult fight on Capitol Hill. Democrats have shown little willingness to embrace these kinds of changes to the tax code. If they are unified in their opposition, it could be difficult for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass anything out of the Senate.

 

Do you support cutting the corporate income tax rate and the individual income tax rate? Or would you rather see other reforms made in the tax code?

 

Trump Works with Democrats to Raise Debt Limit

 

President Donald Trump has found new allies in Congress – Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi. The president bypassed Republican leadership to work with Democrats on an agreement that raises the debt ceiling for three months.

 

What is unclear is if this event heralds a new era of bipartisanship between the president and congressional Democrats, or whether it is merely a one-time deal. Regardless, this move stunned Republicans in Congress, undercutting conservative efforts to tie raising the debt ceiling to limiting spending.

 

With the Trump-backed deal in place, Congress quickly passed legislation that provided over $15 billion in disaster-related spending along with the debt ceiling increase. This will allow the federal government to continue borrowing money for the next three months. Mere hours before the president and congressional Democrats agreed to do so, House Speaker Paul Ryan had panned efforts to tie the two issues together in one bill.

 

In both the House and Senate, opposition votes to this legislation came from conservatives. The Senate rejected efforts by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) to remove the debt limit provisions from the bill. Senators also turned back efforts by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to pay for disaster-related spending by cutting foreign aid.

 

Do you support President Trump working with congressional Democrats to pass a debt ceiling increase without tying the measure to spending limits? Do you think it’s a good idea for Congress to pass a bill that contains both disaster aid and an increase in the debt limit? Or was this a bad deal that hurts efforts to control federal spending?

 

President Trump Proposes Tax Reform

 

In late August, President Trump went to Missouri to lay out some broad themes on tax reform. During his speech, he said that he would be disappointed if Congress did not act on this issue. However, passing actual changes to the tax code is much more difficult than outlining a set of principles.

 

With a full agenda consisting of finishing the federal budget and raising the debt ceiling (among other priorities), it will be very difficult to write a tax bill that gains bipartisan support prior to December. But members of Congress have also said that they want to get tax reform done, too.

 

Here are the priorities laid out by President Trump in his Missouri speech:

 

Close loopholes

 

There is broad agreement by tax experts that this would be a good thing. The problem comes in deciding which loopholes to end. Every loophole, or deduction, in the tax code benefits someone; some group lobbied to get that deduction and that group will fight very hard to retain it. Whether these deductions are large ones, such as the home mortgage interest deduction, or small ones, such as the tax preparation fee deduction, members of Congress will face significant opposition to any proposed changes.

 

Lowering tax rates for businesses

 

There is also support for this principle among experts. However, cutting this rate will mean less revenue to the government. If the president does not want to see this tax plan contribute to higher deficits, then that revenue must be made up through raising other taxes or cutting spending.

 

Middle class tax relief

 

This principle is one that is politically popular. However, what type of tax relief? Will this mean more deductions for middle class taxpayers (which contradicts the first goal)? Or will it mean cutting rates for middle class taxpayers?

 

Allowing companies to bring back money held overseas

 

This is a fairly specific principle, in that it would allow U.S. businesses to repatriate foreign earnings. The current tax code taxes companies on the profits they earn overseas if they bring this money back into the U.S. This gives companies an incentive to invest this money outside the U.S. However, there will be resistance to allowing U.S. businesses to repatriate foreign earnings, from people who do not like the idea of giving a tax break for foreign profits.

 

What do you think of the president’s tax reform agenda? Do you think it hits the right points? Or do you think that Congress should pursue other tax reform ideas?

 

Are Sales Tax Holidays Good Policy?

 

It’s back-to-school season, so that means parents are rushing to stores while clutching school supply lists.  In some states, they may get a brief reprieve from paying sales tax on clothes or notebooks. This type of sales tax holiday may sound like a great deal for consumers, but some experts say it is bad policy.


Sales tax holidays are promoted as a way to spur retail sales as well as help families afford necessary school supplies. Politicians in 16 states have enacted these sales tax holidays, and they cover a variety of goods.

 

Bob Peterson, a state senator from Ohio, co-sponsored legislation in that state creating a sales tax holiday this year. He says, “Ohioans saved millions of dollars on back-to-school items during the prior Sales Tax Holidays, and stores saw significant boosts in statewide retail sales.”

 

According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, however, these supposed benefits are an illusion. Here are some of the problems with this brief window of tax-free shopping, according to the foundation’s experts:

 

“Most sales tax holidays involve politicians picking products and industries to favor with exemptions, arbitrarily discriminating among products and across time, and distorting consumer decisions… Political gimmicks like sales tax holidays distract policymakers and taxpayers from genuine, permanent tax relief. If a state must offer a ‘holiday’ from its tax system, it is an implicit recognition that the state’s tax system is uncompetitive. If policymakers want to save money for consumers, then they should cut the sales tax rate year-round.”

 

What do you think? Do you support sales tax holidays? Or do you think that these holidays are gimmicks that have no real positive effect?

 

Pennsylvania House Bill 542

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Pennsylvania, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 542, Mandate Online Sales Tax Notice: Passed 26 to 24 in the state House on July 27, 2017.

 

To mandate that online out-of-state companies selling to Pennsylvania customers must remind these customers that they owe the commonwealth’s sales tax on goods being purchased. In addition, these companies must send any Pennsylvania resident who spent more than $500 in a year a notice that they owe Pennsylvania sales tax.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Pennsylvania House Bill 542!

 

 

Missouri House Bill 7

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Missouri, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 7, Appropriations for the Economic Development, Insurance, and Labor Departments: Passed 115 to 38 in the state House on April 6, 2017. 

 

To spend $301,156,373 for the Department of Economic Development, $43,833,994 for the
Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration, and $212,298,975 for the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Missouri House Bill 7!

 

 

Colorado House Bill 1222

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 1222, Create Family Caregiver Support Fund Tax Check-off: Passed 27 to 7 in the state Senate on April 18, 2017. 

 

To create a family caregiver support fund in the state treasury and, if space on tax forms permits, allow taxpayers to designate tax funds to provide money for the fund. Money remaining in the fund at the end of a fiscal year would go to Easter Seals Colorado.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado House Bill 1222!

 

 

Tennessee House Bill 261

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Tennessee, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 261, Delay Collecting Internet Sales Tax: Passed 31 to 0 in the state Senate on 9 May, 2017.

 

To delay collecting the sales tax on Internet sales until the conclusion of a court case over the legality of such a tax.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Tennessee House Bill 261!

 

 

What Congress Has Left Undone

 

Members of Congress are leaving for a one-week recess to celebrate Independence Day. When they return to Washington, they will have three weeks in July before their August recess. If they aim to tackle all the big items on their agenda, this will be a very busy time.

 

One of the issues that Congress must deal with is raising the debt ceiling. This has been an ongoing fight in recent years, with conservatives asking for a number of concessions for them to go along with increasing the government’s ability to borrow. Conservatives are pressing for more spending cuts in order for them to go along with increasing the debt ceiling, which plays into both unresolved budget issues as well as the start of the annual passage of appropriation, or spending, bills. There are calls from Democrats and the president to exceed spending caps that currently exist, but the House Freedom Caucus members may demand more fiscal discipline.

 

The Senate has yet to pass a budget resolution that will serve as a guide for the appropriations bills that must be passed to keep the government running. In the House, efforts to craft a budget resolution have stalled in the Budget Committee. Conservatives want large cuts in entitlement programs, such as food stamps. More moderate members oppose these efforts. It is unclear whether Chairman Diane Black will be able to find a way to satisfy both wings of the party, or whether this will be another year without a budget resolution.

 

Efforts to deal with the government’s spending will be paramount during July, but some members of Congress also want to work on the issues of tax reform and infrastructure spending. There is no consensus in either body (or in either party) on how to approach those, but the president and Congress have made these issues a priority. That gives both branches of government an incentive to start work on them soon if they want to have legislative victories prior to the end of President Trump’s first year in office. However, failure to pass a budget resolution makes tax reform much more difficult.

 

What do you think the focus of Congress should be in July? Do you want to see the debt ceiling raised? What should federal spending look like? How important is it that work on tax reform and infrastructure spending be started?

 

Arizona House Bill 2366

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Arizona, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 2366, Maintain property tax breaks for farmers: Passed 30 to 0 in the state house on February 22, 2017 and 59 to 0 in the state Senate on April 20, 2017

 

To allow property tax reductions to remain in place on inactive agricultural land if it is inactive because of limits on water allocations.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Arizona House Bill 2366!

 

Arizona House Bill 2166

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Arizona, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 2166, Affirm that retired state employees returning to work must pay into retirement system: Passed 39 to 20 in the state House on February 13, 2017 and 28 to 2 in the state Senate on April 20, 2017

 

To clarify that an employer is required to pay into the Arizona State Retirement System on behalf of a retired member who returns to work in state employment.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Arizona House Bill 2166!

 

Colorado Senate Bill 183

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 183, Spend $100,000 on grants related to the commissioning of the U.S.S. Colorado nuclear attack submarine: Passed 29 to 6 in the in the state Senate on May 8, 2017 and 65 to 0 in the state House on May 9, 2017

 

To conform state election laws with the results of voter-approved ballot initiatives in 2016. The bill would restore the party-based primary voting system for the U.S. Presidential election. The bill requires the general assembly to pay for any presidential primary elections. The bill also provides for unaffiliated voters to receive ballots for primary elections.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado Senate Bill 305!

 

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