Portman pushes tax reform with Springfield business leaders

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, center, meets with the Chamber of Greater Springfield on Monday to discuss the issue of tax reform. Bill Lackey/Staff

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U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, center, meets with the Chamber of Greater Springfield on Monday to discuss the issue of tax reform. Bill Lackey/Staff

Federal tax reform being pushed by Republicans would create jobs and boost wages, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman told a group of Springfield business owners during a private roundtable discussion Monday.

The meeting was one of several similar discussions Portman has also hosted in Columbus, Dayton and Cleveland. The discussion wasn’t open to the public. But Portman argued afterward the framework being discussed now would encourage investment and provide an incentive for large companies to bring profits now being held overseas back to the U.S.

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“A lot of the input I got was from small businesses, saying, ‘Let’s make sure we have tax reform and tax cuts but let’s make sure it works for small businesses,’” Portman said. “That’s really the heart and soul of the economy here in Springfield and I talked about how we’re going to help small businesses get lower rates but also simplify the tax code.”

Critics have argued the proposed changes would mostly benefit the wealthy and further add to the federal deficit, as well as hurt middle class families.

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“It’s disgraceful that Rob Portman is running around the state cheer-leading for a proposal that will actually raise taxes for thousands of Ohio’s middle-class families, while giving a massive tax break to big corporations and millionaires and billionaires,” said David Pepper, Ohio Democratic party chairman. “Portman is so out of touch that he thinks a family making $150,000 a year is middle class. Barely one in 10 Ohio families are fortunate enough to make that much.”

The framework being discussed would clip the seven current tax brackets for individuals and families down to three, with a top tax rate of 35 percent. It would also double the standard deduction and increase the Child Tax Credit and reduce the corporate tax rate to 20 percent.

Some Springfield business leaders questioned whether the proposed reforms were likely to move forward, Portman said, particularly after several attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act died in Congress this year. But the senator said he’s optimistic tax reforms will be done by the end of this year.

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“Some of the skepticism is understandable because Washington has had a hard time doing pretty much anything recently, including health-care reform” Portman said.

The process to debate the proposal is more open than the failed health care reform, he said.

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“We’re trying to get people working together, Republicans and Democrats, by the way,” he said. “It’s much more transparent because we’ve had about a dozen hearings in my committee already. We’re going to have an open process with reporting the bill out of committee by allowing Democrat amendments and Republican amendments. It’s going to be a different sort of process and I think that will help get it done.”

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Portman also said he would likely vote for the legislation, even if it initially adds to the deficit. The proposed reforms would boost the economy, he said, overshadowing any initial deficits.

“If you actually do bring back some of the $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion that’s locked up overseas and bring it back to America to invest in jobs, people and planned equipment, what would that do to economic growth,” Portman said. “We need to have good numbers on that and show that if you do this kind of tax reform, it will actually bring more revenue coming in because there will be more economic growth.”

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