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Manufacturing still covets Corker's tax reform vote

Hank Hayes • Nov 29, 2017 at 5:30 PM

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker has voted for tax reform in Senate committees, but the National Association of Manufacturers and Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry tried Wednesday to push him in favor of a finishing Senate floor vote.

Leaders of the two groups were sufficiently concerned about Corker’s vote to hold a second conference call with reporters about the issue.

Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, called tax reform a “pivotal moment” for America.

“Tax reform is the manufacturing issue of our generation. … There is no bigger way to support manufacturing and manufacturing workers in Tennessee and across America,” Timmons told reporters. “ … Bob Corker has been a true and consistent champion for manufacturing and manufacturing workers, both as a senator but also as a mayor (of Chattanooga). … We’re encouraging him to be there for us again.”

A Senate floor vote is expected by the end of the week, and if it passes will have to be reconciled with the House-approved version of tax reform.

Corker, R-Tenn., a member of the Senate Budget Committee, said this week after voting to advance tax reform legislation to the Senate floor: “After agreeing in principle with Senate leadership, members of the finance committee, and the administration on a trigger mechanism to ensure greater fiscal responsibility should economic growth estimates not be realized, I voted today to advance this important piece of legislation. While we are still working to finalize the details, I am encouraged by our discussions.”

The Democratic National Committee, in an email sent out Wednesday, cited Corker’s past unwillingness to vote for legislation that would increase the federal deficit. “Which Corker will come to vote on the Senate floor?” was the email’s title.

The bill would lower individual, small business, and corporate tax rates. It nearly doubles the standard deduction, effectively eliminates Obamacare’s individual mandate, increases the child tax credit, eases the burden of the estate tax and includes other provisions lowering taxes for individuals and families. For small businesses, the bill includes a deduction to lower the marginal tax rate applied to pass-through business income. For corporations, the bill lowers the tax rate to 20 percent, moves to a territorial tax system for international operations, and simplifies the corporate tax code. The bill also repeals both the individual and corporate alternative minimum tax.

The tax code was last reformed in 1986.

The Senate bill’s summary noted the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world, and the international tax system imposes a second layer of tax on a corporation that brings profits back to the U.S. from overseas.

The bill estimated tax reform would cause average household income to rise by $4,000, cause wages to increase between 4 and 7 percent and result in a U.S. economy that is 3 to 5 percent larger.

The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated the bill will reduce revenues by $1.4 trillion from 2018-2027.

When asked about the so-called “deficit trigger” in the bill, Timmons said: “I can say that manufacturers are concerned about the deficit and we want to see some action on that, but tax reform itself is designed to help us grow our economy.”

Timmons reported that in the last manufacturers outlook survey, over 55 percent said they would increase investment in equipment and other capital when tax reform is enacted; 54 percent said they would expand their businesses; 57 percent said they would hire more workers; and 52 percent said they would pay higher wages and benefits.

“They face fierce competition from overseas. Other countries have figured it out. They’ve lowered their rate; they’ve modernized their tax code,” Timmons pointed out.

Bradley Jackson, president and CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, noted manufacturing is Tennessee’s second largest private employer with 350,000 workers making an average of $67,000 per year.

“We expect it will be the largest private employment sector in Tennessee,” Jackson concluded.

Corker has said he will not run for re-election in 2018.

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