One day after saying he was "leaning towards" supporting a major tax reform bill, U.S. Rep. John Katko told The Citizen that he will vote for the measure when it's considered by the House Thursday.
Katko, R-Camillus, explained his position during a phone interview Wednesday. He cited the impact on his district and the potential boost to the manufacturing sector as reasons why he's supporting the bill.
"I just can't look away from the fact that this is a healthy tax cut for middle class and working class constituents of mine, and they sorely need the relief," he said. "And the second thing is the business side of the tax relief here really provides the first opportunity in decades to really, truly make the American manufacturers and American workers more competitive on the world stage."
The tax reform bill includes several provisions for individual taxpayers and businesses. It reduces the number of income tax brackets from seven to four and doubles the standard deduction for single filers and couples.
For businesses, the corporate tax rate will be lowered from 35 to 20 percent. Taxes on small business income will be reduced to no more than 25 percent.
A major factor in Katko's decision was the partial preservation of the state and local tax deduction. An earlier version of the bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, would have eliminated the ability to deduct state and local income, property and sales taxes. This would impact residents in New York and other high-tax states.
When the House voted on a budget resolution that served as a vehicle for advancing tax reform legislation, Katko opposed it because the elimination of the state and local tax deduction remained in the bill.
The latest version of the House bill includes a compromise negotiated by several Republicans, including Katko. It will allow homeowners to deduct up to $10,000 of their state and local property taxes.
"This is not perfect. I'd love to have (the state and local tax deduction) in 100 percent," Katko said. "But in the end, when you do the math for my district, it really is a good deal."
For Katko, his position on the tax reform bill fulfills a campaign pledge. He has lamented the loss of manufacturing jobs in central and upstate New York.
He believes the existing tax structure is a reason why businesses have struggled and jobs have left the region. He also said the bill could help address poverty issues in Syracuse and throughout his district that "are as real as they are anywhere in the United States."
"The thought that we could have an opportunity to try and impact that is pretty exciting," he said.
The tax reform effort has its share of critics. Constituents rallied outside Katko's Auburn office Monday to protest the GOP tax plan. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a Facebook ad campaign targeting Katko over his stance on the tax bill.
The DCCC accused Katko of flip-flopping on the tax bill. The group referred to his comments explaining why he opposed the budget resolution and that Republicans "gotta make sure the middle class doesn't get screwed."
"Nearly every New York Republican opposes this harmful tax scam, which will hike taxes on middle-class New York families in order to slash taxes on big corporations and the rich," said Evan Lukaske, a DCCC spokesman. "That Katko supports it shows his complete disregard for the people he represents."
The DCCC's assessment of the bill is shared by other Democrats and progressive groups. They oppose the measure because they view it as a major tax cut for corporations and the rich.
Katko disputes that claim.
"It's a myth that this is a boon to the wealthy," he said. "The reason I'm voting for this is because the vast majority of people in my district that are getting a tax cut are going to be middle class and working class people, and that is the antithesis of wealth."
The House is expected to vote on the bill Thursday. The Senate is advancing its own tax reform legislation. Once the Senate acts, a conference committee will be formed to negotiate a final agreement.
While Katko hasn't reviewed the Senate plan, he is aware that it calls for the elimination of the state and local tax deduction. If that's included in the final version of the bill negotiated by the House and Senate, he will vote against it.
"If they do that, I'm not supporting the bill and leadership knows that," he said.