Pa.’s Toomey: Tax hikes are off the table to pay for bipartisan infrastructure deal

By: - June 28, 2021 2:50 pm

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., speaks during the first post-pandemic meeting of the Pennsylvania Press Club on Monday, June 28, 2021 (Capital-Star photo).

With a bipartisan infrastructure plan back on track after a tenuous weekend, Pennsylvania’s Republican United States senator says he’s a “no” vote if it results in a tax increase, or it it undoes the 2017 tax cuts approved under the former Trump administration.

“We don’t have a bill to look at. We’ve got a framework and many very large important parts are completely undefined is just a line on a piece of paper,” U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said Monday. “There’s no actual substance. So the details matter if it hangs on a tax increase, or you know, I’ll be a no if is if this ends up being an increase in taxes. But I think that’s extremely wealthy Americans. Yeah. Now, that’s, that’s no, I’m not interested in undoing the 2017 tax reform.”

For the moment, there appears to be no immediate threat of such a tax hike to pay for a plan that spends $1.2 trillion over eight years. And the bipartisan group of senators behind the deal reached Thursday with President Joe Biden “have said they’re not interested in that approach either,” Toomey said.

On Saturday, Biden had to walk back a declaration that he would not sign an infrastructure bill unless it came with a reconciliation bill to pay for such Democratic priorities as childcare, health care, and education, which the administration has described as “human infrastructure” that would compliment such so-called “hard infrastructure” as roads, bridges, and broadband expansion, CNBC reported.

Toomey’s Monday comments in front of the first, post-pandemic meeting of the Pennsylvania Press Club underline the challenges the White House and the bipartisan group of senators face as they look to garner the 10 Republican votes that would be needed to dodge the filibuster and send it to the House, CNN reported.

Toomey, of Lehigh County, is one of those Republican votes. And in remarks that spread over a little more than half-an-hour, he outlined his criteria for what would — and would not — constitute an acceptable infrastructure package.

“There should be three criteria we meet in any infrastructure bill,” he said. “One is it should actually be infrastructure, right? So please don’t include every conceivable government program under the heading, because that’s not the case. So that’s physical infrastructure, the systems, the platforms we use to move products and people and goods and services throughout our economy. We all know what it is, right? Roads and bridges and airports and waterways.”

In addition to not raising taxes, Toomey, a yes vote on the Trump tax cuts that economists believe will add as much as $2 trillion to the national debt by 2025, also said it’s critical that the final infrastructure bill does not add to the national debt or add to the existing budget deficit.

Negotiators have suggested the package could be paid for through unspent funds from prior relief packages and through revenue gleaned by selling off strategic oil reserves. About $100 billion in funding would come unspent pandemic unemployment funds, according to CNN.

Right now, the bill appears to not utilize Biden’s initial proposal to raise the national corporate income tax rate from the current 21 percent to 28 percent, and to increase the global minimum tax rate on corporations to 21 percent, CNN reported.

“I’m concerned about the third [criteria] and how it gets paid for,” he said “But I think that is mostly not well-defined, yet. There are some ideas, but it’s very vague. And so I’m going to work with my colleagues and hope that we get to a good resolution on that. And I’m open to supporting the package, assuming we can.”

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.