Schumer presses vote to restore SALT deductions

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Tuesday promised to use a legislative maneuver to force a Senate vote to bolster states like New York in their efforts to blunt the cost of Congress capping the so-called SALT deduction in the Republican tax law of 2017.

“Taking away the SALT deduction was brutally unfair to ipstate homeowners and hit ‘em right between the eyes,” Schumer said in a statement. “New York’s hard-working homeowners shouldn’t be forced to bear the burden of the political games that target and punish specific regions of the nation.”

Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., controls what moves through the Senate and what does not, Schumer said Tuesday he’s found a legislative path to get a SALT rollback on to the Senate floor for a vote Wednesday — with 51 votes needed for a win instead of the normal 60 to overcome a filibuster.

“This is extremely important to New York,” he said in a brief interview. The SALT limitation is “a dagger to the heart of the middle class in New York.” He predicted 44 Democrats and two independents will vote for it, leaving Democrats 5 votes short of victory. Ten are undecided, he added.

To lessen the blow of tax breaks contained in the 2017 tax law backed by President Donald Trump and Republicans then in control of both House and Senate, the GOP drafters capped state and local tax deductions — SALT — at $10,000. Many New Yorkers had grown to depend on SALT deductions to make ends meet in a high-taxed, high-cost state.

Democrats, including Schumer and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, charged Trump and Republicans with shifting the nation’s tax burden onto the shoulders of New Yorkers and those in other so-called blue states. After Trump appeared to waiver last year, Cuomo flew to Washington to press the White House for an appeal.

But Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, himself a long-time fixture on the New York financial scene, nixed it.

“I don’t expect to see the tax reform opened up,” Kudlow told reporters earlier this year. “I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

Both Kudlow and Trump argued that the SALT deduction was most useful to wealthy New York homeowners and that middle-class homeowners in the state had other means of lowering their taxes — including use of the doubled standard deduction built into the 2017 law.

But Schumer and other Democrats insisted SALT was very much a part of the New York middle-class homeowner calculation on how to make life in the state more affordable.

Schumer’s office on Tuesday cited figures prepared by the National Association of Counties that illustrate the widespread use of SALT among upstate homeowners.

For instance, in 2016, 51,000 Albany County residents filed SALT deductions that averaged $15,500. In Schenectady County, it was 26,200 filings for an average of $12,400. And in Rensselaer County, it was 25,200 filings for an average of $11,700.

Upstate Republicans including U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, also voted against the 2017 law because of the lowered SALT deduction.

“Congresswoman Stefanik has a clear record on this issue,” said her spokeswoman, Madison Anderson.

Stefanik has co-sponsored a bipartisan bill in the House to raise the SALT cap, but she “believes the state of New York needs to rein in its spending and lower taxes,” Anderson added.

New York had sought to soften the blow of lowered SALT deductions by creating a work-around, in which “charitable” deductions for education, childcare and non-profits serving children, rural hospitals, environmental conservation, and other items would be deductible on federal taxes.

The IRS disallowed the practice in rules promulgated this year.

Schumer on Tuesday insisted the IRS ruling opened the door for him to bring the “work-around” issue up for a vote on the Senate floor. Schumer cited the Congressional Review Act, which permits challenges in Congress to regulations imposed by administrative agencies such as the IRS.

Schumer said the vote would take place on Wednesday and that, because it will be invoked under the Congressional Review Act, it will not be subject to the normal 60-vote threshold. The IRS rule also negated deductions for schools and other forms of charitable giving, which Schumer said might attract additional Republican votes.

But even if it passes and the Democratic House follows suit, a veto by Trump would be difficult to overcome.

But none of that bothers Schumer.

“They are rubbing salt in the New York homeowners’ SALT-inflicted wounds,” Schumer said. “I plan to take control of the Senate floor and force a vote to nullify the IRS’s horrible rule and put power back in the hands of upstate New York homeowners to soften the blow of the elimination of SALT deductions. New York’s hard-working homeowners shouldn’t be forced to bear the burden of the political games that target and punish specific regions of the nation.”

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