Congressional Republicans and Democrats agree on this much: giving narrow special interests temporary — and often retroactive — tax breaks is an awful way to conduct government business.
“Temporary measures are rarely good tax policy,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said Wednesday during a daylong hearing on such provisions.
“We either include tax provisions in the permanent law, or we eliminate them,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.
Wednesday’s hearing of the Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee came a day after a Center for Public Integrity investigation revealed how Congress filled February’s Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 with numerous temporary tax provisions that benefited special interests — sometimes, extremely narrow ones, such as race horse owners and tuna canners.
These interests often sought such favors on Capitol Hill armed with lobbying might and campaign cash. And the tax provisions they’ve won aren’t cheap: the latest round included in the February budget bill will cost the U.S. Treasury about $16 billion over the next decade.
But while the bipartisan buy-in heartened some reform advocates testifying before the subcommittee, that’s no guarantee that lawmakers, who often struggle to compromise on even noncontroversial matters, have the backbone to reduce or eliminate so-called “tax extenders” and related provisions.
Several of the 21 witnesses who testified argued that axing temporary tax provisions would result in a host of unintended consequences, from economic hardships to health concerns.