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Commentary: Tax reform will hit ND hard

Ryan Taylor is a former state senator and USDA Rural Development state director1 / 2
Karen Ehrens is a food, health and public policy advocate2 / 2

Tax reform was supposed to benefit hardworking families and the middle class. Instead, the bills passed by the U.S. House and Senate — and now, what is likely to be included in the language in the final piece of legislation that emerges from those two bills — will end up being a tax increase on thousands of North Dakotans.

The tax reform we're getting is not what we were promised. It will benefit millionaires and permanently cut taxes for large corporations, even while many corporate CEO's have acknowledged the new tax benefits will go to wealthy shareholders rather than boosting wages or creating more good-paying jobs.

The tax reform we're getting will increase the national debt by over $1 trillion and North Dakotans will be able to feel that consequence. It will far exceed the post-Christmas hangover you might get in your January credit card statement. To make up for the massive increase in debt, the next steps will be deep cuts to programs that benefit North Dakota — Medicare, Social Security, crop insurance and other farm safety net programs that help grow our agricultural economy.

The budget blueprints that were released earlier this year put bullseyes over these and other programs.

The targets are big enough to hit all of us in this self-created debt-induced disaster. Here are the people who will be hit the hardest:

• Families with children — likely cuts to programs such as child care assistance and Head Start will make it harder for parents to afford even the most basic necessities like food and housing.

• Affordable housing programs and food programs are also targeted to be cut.

• People working to better their lives — cuts to Pell grants that help people afford college, and job training services for those who wish to move up from entry level jobs.

• Senior citizens who've paid into a secure retirement — Medicare likely to be cut by up to one-fourth in 2018, putting healthcare at risk. Many seniors would see tax increases.

• People with disabilities — large cuts are proposed in the next 10 years to Medicaid, scaling back services that make it possible for people to live in their own homes and attend school; cuts to disability insurance; cuts to housing and food assistance.

• Anyone who needs clean drinking water, eats from the bounty of a country with an agricultural safety net, or wants to drive on decent roads — the so-called "PAYGO" cuts that would be triggered by this massive debt increase would be devastating in each of these areas - including the Farm Bill, which is so crucial for North Dakota.

Tax reform is coming for a final vote in a matter of days.

We encourage you to call Rep. Kevin Cramer (202-225- 2611), Sen. John Hoeven (202-224- 2551), and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp at (202-224- 2043) to share your concerns.

Tell our representatives how this bill will impact you and your family, and demand that changes made to the tax code benefit hardworking folks — not millionaires — without adding to the national debt. Remember, the Grinch would have stolen Christmas if little Cindy Lou hadn't changed his mind. That sweet, determined voice could be yours. Use it.