Baltimore’s congressional representatives vowed Monday to fight a Republican tax bill they said would damage the city and state, and encouraged residents to speak out as well.
“I think we can stop it,” U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes said, “but we’ve got to make sure we stick together.”
Sarbanes and U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, all Democrats, spoke at a town hall meeting Monday at the War Memorial Building in Baltimore. Billed as an opportunity to address their representatives, the event drew more than 100 people.
Mayor Catherine Pugh also attended the event, which was organized by Indivisible Baltimore, a liberal grassroots advocacy group.
The tax plan currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate would make deep cuts to corporate and business tax rates, while also reducing tax rates for many individuals.
The Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week. If passed, the bill would need to be reconciled with the House version of the bill.
An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimated the plan would add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade.
Republicans have disputed the analysis, arguing that the tax plan will lead to greater economic development by encouraging businesses to invest in their enterprises and workers.
Democrats have opposed the measure, saying it will give the greatest relief to businesses and wealthy individuals, while hurting lower-income families.
“What we need to do is find a tax code that’s fair to all Americans, that will help create jobs and take care of the middle class, which is hurting,” Ruppersberger said. “They’re hurting, they need relief.”
Allison Oakes, a 26-year-old health policy graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University, said she is concerned about a provision in the House bill that could raise taxes for students.
Currently doctoral students who work on campus in exchange for having a part of their tuition waived pay taxes only on the stipend they receive. The House bill would eliminate an exemption for waived tuition, making it taxable income. The Senate version retains the exemption.
Oakes pays taxes on a $22,000 stipend, but under the House bill, she would pay taxes on $75,000, the sum of her stipend plus waived tuition.
Oakes is close enough to graduating that she is not worried about her own ability to pay but said the move would significantly impact incoming students.
“Graduate students would end up with a take-home pay that would leave them unable to afford their living expenses,” Oakes said.
Christopher Davis, a Baltimore City Public Schools teacher, said he is upset that the bill would eliminate a $250 tax deduction allowed to teachers. Davis, 40, said teachers spend hundreds of dollars every year to buy supplies for their classrooms beyond what the school pays for, and the tax deduction helps them reinvest in their classrooms.
To cheers from the audience, Cummings, Ruppersberger and Sarbanes promised to push back against such cuts.
“There’s something wrong with the picture when you tell teachers who simply want to buy some supplies for their students that they’re not going to be able to deduct $250,” Cummings said. “C’mon, give me a break.”