Tax and Spending Package: An Irresponsible End to the Year

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The Concord Coalition said today that a tax and spending package set to be voted on in the House of Representatives is a stunning display of fiscal irresponsibility.

The bill, HR 1865, would reduce revenues by more than $400 billion over the next 10 years even as it implements a $170 billion increase in the 2020 appropriation caps agreed to earlier this year.

“This is not just a traditional year-end Christmas tree bill, it is a whole forest of Christmas trees,” said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition.

The bill contains $540 billion for eight of the 12 annual appropriation bills needed to keep the government open beyond Thursday, December 20. A second appropriation bill will include funding for the remaining four bills.

Using the funding deadline as an opportunity, House leaders attached a number of tax cuts that do everything from extending expired or expiring tax breaks to the repeal of major provisions that were originally enacted to help fund the Affordable Care Act and slow the rate of health care cost growth.

“None of these tax provisions has any business hitching a ride on an appropriation bill needed to prevent a government shutdown.” Bixby said “Moreover, they come in the face of projected annual budget deficits that already exceed $1 trillion for as far as the eye can see, and a debt-to-GDP ratio that is higher than it’s been since just after World War II.”

The largest single item in the bill is repeal of the so-called “Cadillac Tax” on high-cost health insurance plans, which would reduce projected revenues by $200 billion in the first 10 years and by increasing amounts in the future. During consideration of the Affordable Care Act, the Congressional Budget Office suggested that this tax was the legislation’s single most important cost-control effort. While it was initially scheduled to go into effect in 2018, it has been delayed twice and is currently scheduled to go into effect in 2022.

A last-minute compromise also added to the bill would revive or extend several short-term tax breaks. In May, The Concord Coalition joined a diverse group of 11 other organizations to oppose  “tax extenders,” which are short-term tax breaks that favor certain taxpayers, industries, and activities. Rather than making them a permanent part of the tax code, Congress has renewed many extenders year after year so that they appear less expensive.

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