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Walden says plan will boost economy

Oregon Congressman Greg Walden has high hopes for the Republican tax bill, saying the finished product, "like a good wine," has improved with age.

Walden delivered a statement and took questions from Oregon reporters just hours after the House passed the latest version of the Republican-led Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

One of the most influential Republicans in the House as chairman of the powerful Committee for Energy and Commerce, addressed multiple points about the bill in his statement, including those that have been frequently cited as concerns for Oregonians that he represents. One example is the $10,000 cap on federal tax deductions on state income, local and property taxes. Some wonder whether the cap on deductions will end up costing Oregonians money or hurting state-funded programs such as public education.

Older versions of the bill entirely scrapped federal deductions for state income taxes. Earlier this month, Walden's communications office said the congressman was working with legislators to reinstate income and property tax deductions in the bill. A cap on those deductions, however, is new.

Walden said the bill's nearly doubling of the standard exemption across all tax brackets and boosts in the child tax credit will offset the costs a family might experience as a result of the cap on their federal deductions from state and local taxes.

"Sixty-eight percent of people in this district never file an itemized tax return," he said. "We think they'll benefit more from (the increase in the standard deduction)."

He was similarly optimistic about the possible impacts on big businesses, which are receiving the largest corporate tax cut in U.S. history and whose changes are set to last beyond 2025, when individual and small-business tax cuts will expire. Walden said he expects Oregon to remain competitive as a place to both look for and create jobs, in part because of California's higher tax structure. He cited his own experience as a small business owner as evidence for why he believes businesses will hire if they get to keep more of their own money.

When asked whether he could or would identify specific businesses that had told him they would hire workers as a result of the tax cuts, Walden declined.

"Not on this call, no," Walden said. "That doesn't mean they're not out there, though."

In response to questions about the potential impacts of the $1.46 trillion projected to be added to the federal debt as a result of the bill, Walden instead pointed to "economic gains" from the tax cuts.

"Are we concerned about debt? Absolutely," he said. "A growing economy will wipe out the numbers you noted. I think we have a real positive message for families as far as job growth and letting them keep more of their income."

Oregon House Democrats, however, had a different view of the tax plan.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Eugene, blasted the tax plan on Twitter as a "massive tax bill that gives trillions in giveaways to corporations and the wealthiest Americans."

"The tax breaks in this plan will skyrocket our national debt and only give a pittance to the middle class," DeFazio said in a statement on his website. "Eighty-three percent of the benefits go to Americans making over $400,000, while over half of America’s middle class will see a tax increase."

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, a senior member of the House Ways & Means Committee, said in a statement, “This bill represents the largest transfer of wealth in our nation’s history — financed by mortgaging our children’s future with a mountain of increased debt.

"It is not tax reform. It’s not even a policy. Rather, it is a collection of special interest provisions, disguised behind a set of false promises."

Walden said the House Committee for Energy and Commerce will look at reducing spending in local agencies, but did not give other examples of potential cuts as a result of the debt increase.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or ktornay@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.