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Pence pitches tax reform at WV business summit

F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Gazette-Mail
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence spoke Wednesday during the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s 81st Annual Meeting and Business Summit at The Greenbrier resort. Pence introduced President Donald Trump’s plan to simplify the tax code and reduce corporate and personal income tax rates by the end of the year.
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Gazette-Mail
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence pointed to the current tax system as the source of a host of economic woes. “America’s tax code destroys our wealth, it destroys our jobs and in destroys the enterprising spirit of the American people, and that is ultimately the true source of our prosperity,” he said. “Bottom line: it’s time for a change.”

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — After a high-profile failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at The Greenbrier resort Wednesday to kickstart the administration’s newest endeavor — tax reform.

Speaking at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s 81st annual Meeting and Business Summit, Pence introduced President Donald Trump’s plan to both simplify the tax code and reduce corporate and personal income tax rates by the end of 2017.

“The time has come to cut taxes across the board for working families,” Pence said.

Specifically, he outlined four points of the tax overhaul: simplification; making U.S. tax rates more competitive with other first-world nations; delivering cuts to every tax bracket, including the middle class; and lowering the rates to draw in international corporate activity.

On the first point, Pence said Americans will be able to file their taxes on a single sheet of paper without the assistance of a lawyer or accountant. On the second, he said the highest corporate tax rate, 39 percent, pulls business away from the U.S. toward other countries with lower rates. On the third, he said the code should be a flatter tax, more even and lower across the income spectrum, as opposed to the current progressive tax system.

He did not offer any more specifics of the plan.

Throughout his speech, Pence pointed to the current tax system as the source of a host of economic woes.

“America’s tax code destroys our wealth, it destroys our jobs and it destroys the enterprising spirit of the American people, and that is ultimately the true source of our prosperity,” he said. “Bottom line: it’s time for a change.”

His barrage on taxes continued throughout the speech.

“Our tax code is literally robbing the wealth of families and future generations,” Pence said.

He went on to cite President Calvin Coolidge as inspiration to lower the tax code.

“President Calvin Coolidge actually wisely observed that the power to tax is the power to destroy,” he said. “Today our system of taxation is literally destroying the dreams of too many Americans.”

Coolidge served as commander in chief from August 1923 to March 1929, roughly six months before the onset of The Great Depression.

For the tax overhaul to pass in 2017, the administration will have its hands full. Because the Senate can only use its special budget reconciliation rules, which require 50 votes to pass a bill as opposed to 60, Congress will need to pass a spending bill first, and potentially, the debt ceiling with it. The Senate can only deploy reconciliation rules once per annual budget, and it has already used this year’s allocation on the attempted Affordable Care Act repeal.

Additionally, coming to 50 votes will be no easy feat, given Trump’s recent turbulence with members of the Senate, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Tax reform already is a touchy subject in the state. The Legislature tried and failed to pass its own version at the state level. Also, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also recently declined to sign a letter signed by 45 of 48 Senate Democrats agreeing to certain minimum requirements for them to get on board with a GOP overhaul.

From the podium, Pence called out to both Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to get on Trump’s team for the effort as well.

“Let me say to Shelley, and especially to Joe, the president and the people of the Mountain State are counting on you,” he said.

As a hook to introduce his tax plan, Pence opened his speech with an update on the tropical storm ravaging Texas and Louisiana and requested prayers and donations of any kind from those in attendance.

He also called on Congress to provide federal funding for the disaster there.

Pence will be traveling to Texas Thursday with his wife, Karen, to meet with survivors and state officials, according to a report from his press pool.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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