Who wins with tax reform?

During the past three years, I have traveled Kansas’ First Congressional District and listened to farmers and ranchers, teachers, small business owners, single and married parents, college students and recent college graduates. The common desire amongst voters was for our government to implement fairer, more sensible solutions that aid the working person/family in a way that makes it just a bit easier to pay their rent or mortgage, afford something simple like athletic shoes for their children, pay off their student loans and not be stuck in a system that makes it difficult to get ahead.

Recently the Senate has passed its tax reform proposal and the House will do so soon (if it hasn’t already by press time). The general consensus across the political spectrum is that tax reform is long overdue. However, the current proposals have failed to include reforms that the majority of voters (low-to-middle class income earners) have asked for in recent elections. I’m not sure why there is a disconnect between what people desire and how our representatives vote, but I would suggest it is because our congressional delegation has not spent the majority of his or her working lives living paycheck-to-paycheck like the average Midwest family.

The average household in Kansas makes roughly $50,000 a year. If that household has two children, the House Plan would be an annual tax savings of $836, the Senate Plan $1,368. A family making $50,000 a year with two children means that family is probably living paycheck-to-paycheck. Now, look at a similar family making $500,000 a year. Their annual tax savings under the House Plan would be $8,836 and under the Senate Plan would be $22,917. While this tax reform proposal gives a nice tax break to higher income earners, it does nothing to benefit the lower-to-middle class family working long hours just to make ends meet.

I am disheartened by the failure of our elected representatives in Congress to listen to the people who sent them to Washington to be their voice. Maybe it is my genuine desire to do good, or that I’m ignorant in believing that someone out there could be our “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Perhaps I’m just exhausted from spending my early-to-mid 20s knocking on thousands of doors across the district and making thousands of phone calls for candidates I once respected and believed in, just to see them vote in a way that doesn’t benefit their constituents.

I understand and believe that corporate tax cuts can drive economic growth and that both tax reform proposals offer improvements to streamlining the tax code. However, there is a more balanced approach on the individual rate side of the tax debate that can better assist the working person/family—without borrowing an additional $1 trillion and further saddling our nation with debt.We can do better by giving the working person/family more relief, provide lower rates to businesses and have a plan that balances the budget over time, but this requires our Congressional leaders to allow tax reform proposals to go through the proper channels; allowing for debate and amendments that better represents the will of the American people. I challenge our elected officials to do better, and if they cannot, we must step up and challenge them at the next election.

Trey Joy is the former mayor of Smith Center, Kansas and served on the campaign trail for Sen. Pat Roberts and First District Congressman Roger Marshall. He and his brother own and operate a sixth generation family farm in Smith County.