EVERETT — A protest sign with a picture of President Donald Trump demanded, “Where are your tax returns?”
Another sign proclaimed, “Tax cuts make us 1 percent richer and 99 percent poorer.”
As Republican members of Congress try to sell the American people on a tax overhaul, a group of protesters in downtown Everett on Monday made it clear that they’re not buying.
“The GOP is trying to pull the wool over everybody eyes by saying this is a middle-class tax cut,” said Anita Dietrich, the lead organizer for SnoCo Indivisible. “Show them we know better.”
Several dozen people had gathered outside the Snohomish County courthouse at 1 p.m. Like Dietrich, most were affiliated with political groups that formed in response to Trump’s victory last year, a sort of progressive answer to the Tea Party movement.
Similar protests were scheduled to be held in Seattle and Bellingham.
Monday’s actions follow release of a new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showing the tax reform proposal awaiting action in the Senate would provide more economic benefits to the highest wage-earners in the country while adding $1.4 trillion to the national deficit over the course of the next decade.
Meanwhile The Washington Post reported Sunday that an analysis prepared by the Joint Committee on Taxation for Republican senators predicts the majority of taxpayers at all levels of wage-earners would positively benefit from the Senate tax bill in the next decade — if the GOP does not move ahead with repeal of the piece of the federal health care law that mandates citizens have health insurance.
However, if the individual mandate is repealed as part of the tax bill, those earning less than $30,000 would be negatively affected by 2019, according to the reports. It assumed the working poor would not pay more in taxes but would spend more out of their pocket on health insurance and medical treatment if the mandate is eliminated.
“One of the greatest problems in America today is wealth disparity,” said David Trowbridge, 70, of Whidbey Island, one of the protesters at the Everett rally. “I see the tax bill as exacerbating the problem.”
Trowbridge said he and his wife have been setting up a nonprofit to help provide affordable housing in their area, and worried that the tax bill could hamper their efforts. One provision would curb availability of some forms of tax-exempt financing for private purposes such as affordable housing.
“The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office confirms the GOP tax plan will raise taxes on low- and middle-class Americans by taking away important tax deductions families rely on,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, who is a member of the Senate Finance Committee. She opposed the bill when it come through that panel.
“Gouging middle class families to pay for corporate tax breaks is just wrong,” she said. “We need tax reform that invests in the middle class and grows our economy from the middle out.”
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, shared a similar view in an emailed statement.
“The Republican tax plan is nothing more than a partisan attempt to jam through a massive giveaway to the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations at the expense of everyone else, and I’m so glad to see so many people in our state standing up and fighting back,” she said.
The House passed its tax reform legislation Nov. 16.
“We passed a bill to allow families across Washington keep more of their hard-earned money and to give businesses the chance to grow and hire more workers,” Republican Congressman Dave Reichert, of Auburn, said in a statement following the vote.
“Throughout this process, I have held every proposed idea to the standard of will this plan create jobs in America, increase paychecks, and put more money in the pockets of hard-working Americans. I am proud to say, this plan meets this high-standard and as a result it will change lives, energize our country, and get our economy booming again.”
The Senate could vote on its version this week. However, there are Republican senators seeking changes before they’ll support it.
President Donald Trump met with several Republican senators Monday to discuss the bill. In a morning tweet, he said, “With just a few changes, some mathematical, the middle class and job producers can get even more in actual dollars and savings.”
Last week Trump said he hoped to “give the American people a huge tax cut for Christmas.”
If the Senate passes its version, the two chambers will need to iron out the differences.
For individuals, the House reduces the number of tax brackets to four from seven and retains a top rate at 39.6 percent for high income individuals and couples. The Senate bill sticks with seven brackets and reduces top rate to 38.5 percent for the highest wage-earners.
Corporations are treated slightly different in the two plans as well.
The House immediately slashes the tax rate paid by companies to 20 percent from 35 percent and makes the reduction permanent. In the Senate, the proposal makes the same cut but doesn’t let it take effect until 2019.
Both plans increase the standard deduction. In the House it rises to $12,200 for single filers, $18,300 for heads of households and $24,400 for joint filers. The amounts in the Senate plan are $12,000, $18,000 and $24,000 respectively. Each plan also increases the amount of the child tax credit and the House creates an employer-based child care savings account in which up to $5,000 in pre-tax payments can be made.
Both proposals eliminate the sales-tax deduction enjoyed by Washington residents. The Senate version also nixes the deduction of state and local property taxes while the House bill preserves that property tax deduction up to a maximum of $10,000.
Under the Senate plan, most of the changes affecting individual income taxes — such as lower rates, increased standard deduction and larger child tax credits — would expire Jan. 1, 2026. The House makes some of their changes permanent.
The Senate plan also calls for eliminating the mandate that all individuals have health insurance or face a fine. This is a tenet of the Affordable Care Act enacted under President Barack Obama. This provision is not in the bill passed by the House of Representatives.
That’s only one of the potential ripple effects for health care that’s causing alarm for Howard Lazzarini, a 69-year-old at Monday’s protest. As a respiratory therapist at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, the issue is of both personal and professional concern to him. The GOP tax plan would cut major safety nets for the poor, elderly and disabled, Lazzarini said.
“The purpose of this is to give tax cuts to those who don’t need it,” he said. “I’m extremely concerned that people on Medicare and Medicaid won’t be able to receive adequate medical treatment.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.
U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Bernie Sanders will debate Sens. Ted Cruz and Tim Scott on tax reform on CNN on Tuesday.
Coverage begins at 6 p.m.