Democrats Should Hold Second Hearing Where Rural Communities Can Be Heard
Our priority needs to be helping workers reconnect to employees as our economy reopens, argued Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE), Republican Leader of the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures for Ways and Means, at a recent hearing on “Tax Tools to Help Local Government.”
- Republicans believe in helping communities meet their basic infrastructure needs, which is why we kept the tax exemption for municipal bonds in 2017’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Republicans want to help states and localities reduce the burden of financing that can also help trim the cost to taxpayers.
- We should have a second hearing on “tools to help local governments” that focus on the real rural infrastructure and funding concerns of actual smaller and rural communities like Lake County, California, or Red Cloud, Nebraska, central Washington state or central Illinois.
- Reopening our economy is key to ensuring American families and small businesses can help improve state and local revenues that fund infrastructure, while we explore innovative ways of accessing alternative fuels and energy sources
His remarks as prepared are below.
Thank you for the time, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to our witnesses.
The topic of this hearing – “Tax Tools to Help Local Government” – is extremely broad, and I think there are many areas where we agree.
We agree that we need to do more to invest in our infrastructure – fixing and maintaining what we have, and building what we need.
However, our role in this space is limited, and it is vital our colleagues on T&I and other authorizing committees make necessary reforms to permitting and other project rules to ensure we continue protecting our environment while eliminating roadblocks which unnecessarily cost communities time and money.
Infrastructure is more than just our roads and bridges. It is rail, pipelines and powerlines to provide energy, the reach and capacity of broadband to serve every American, and the canals, tunnels, and ditches which move water to communities that need it, just to name a few.
We agree the tax code can be a valuable tool in supporting infrastructure. When we enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act we intentionally kept the tax exemption for municipal bonds in the tax code because we agree on their importance to helping communities meet their basic infrastructure needs.
While TCJA rolled back advance-refunding of bonds, I would welcome a discussion of ways we could help states and localities reduce the burden of financing, including a smarter approach to advance refunding that avoids stacking of loans and trims the cost to the federal taxpayer.
There is also bipartisan support for economic development provisions referenced by some of our witnesses like New Markets Tax Credit, and for Opportunity Zones. However, rather than merely extending those provisions we believe we should first work to ensure those programs are working as intended.
Getting our economy back up and running should be a bipartisan goal, and will create the most benefit to states and cities attempting to get their budgets in order. The national unemployment rate of 6.2% is still far too high, and we should be ensuring workers reconnecting with employers is a top priority as our economy continues to reopen.
I should also note that there are areas where we clearly do not agree, like repealing the SALT cap.
However, rather than focusing on longstanding policy disagreements, I would like to think of this hearing as an opportunity to focus on how we can better work together on areas where we disagree.
First, I sincerely hope you, Mr. Chairman, view this hearing as the beginning of a bipartisan conversation on helping communities and building an economy that benefits all Americans.
While today’s witnesses ostensibly cover the spectrum of cities, counties, and local officials, they also represent larger urban and suburban communities with different needs than rural areas.
Columbia, South Carolina, has a population of more than 130,000. Dallas has a population of 1.3 million. Franklin County, Ohio, has a population of 1.3 million, and in his testimony Commissioner Boyce refers to Onondaga County, New York, population 467,000, as a “small county.”
There are 75 counties in the Third District of Nebraska, and none is even 1/8 that size.
Mr. Chairman, let’s make step two in this conversation a second hearing on “tools to help local governments” where we can give actual smaller and rural communities like Lake County, California, or Red Cloud, Nebraska, central Washington state or central Illinois a chance to make their real rural infrastructure and funding concerns heard.
If you would like to try to have that hearing next week, I would be willing to work with you to expedite that, including working with our members to waive the seven-day rule.
Second, rather than rushing through another partisan package, let’s have a constructive bipartisan conversation about our ideas and about how to move forward.
We stand ready to share our ideas about funding infrastructure, accessing alternative fuels and energy sources, and with the two most obvious ways to improve state and local revenues – returning to a strong pre-COVID economy and getting Americans families and small businesses back to work so they can again contribute as state and local taxpayers.
I sincerely hope you will work with us.
I yield back my time, Mr. Chairman. I’m looking forward to a vigorous discussion.