Congress Looks To Ron Wyden (D-OR) To Continue Efforts To Reform Tax Laws
The departure of the Senate’s Finance Committee Chair to become Ambassador to China could blunt any remaining momentum for tax reform next year, lobbyists and lawmakers fear. But they are taking some measure of hope that Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon will take the chair of the Senate Finance Committee and continue his own efforts at tax code reform in the year ahead.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) had admitted they faced long odds in getting tax reform done this year, given the acrimony between the two parties and an already-full legislative agenda. The departure of the Chairman, who has been a driving force behind tax code reform, further blunts that efforts.
Wyden will not speculate on who will take the chairmanship of the committee, but his chairmanship is likely. Known as a pragmatic and sensible voice in the Senate, he is senior to any other Democratic members on the committee except Sen. Jay Rockefeller (WV), who is not seeking reelection in 2014.
Forbes magazine, which refers to Wyden as the “Finance Committee Chairman-In-Waiting, notes that he has proposed reforms that are palatable to Republicans.
The magazine notes that Wyden is the sponsor of a major tax reform plan that would reduce both individual and corporate tax rates without adding to the deficit or changing the current distribution of taxes among income groups very much.
The 64-year-old Wyden, who has a history of proposing creative, ambitious, and sometimes controversial ideas, initially sponsored a tax code overhaul in 2010 with former GOP senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. After Gregg retired, Wyden found another GOP cosponsor in Dan Coates of Indiana. A proposed Wyden-Coates reform bill follows the broad outline of the original Wyden-Gregg plan.
For individuals, it would set three tax rates—15-25-35 percent, respectively. The top bracket would kick in at $140,000 for couples filing jointly. It would repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, nearly triple the standard deduction, and create a 35 percent exclusion for long-term capital gains and dividends (equal to a rate of 22.75 percent for top-bracket taxpayers). It would eliminate the tax advantages of many employee benefits–but not employer-sponsored health insurance. And it would simplify tax-preferred savings.
Wyden, who made his mark in the Senate working on telecommunications and finance issues, is known for working across the aisle with Republicans, including work on a Medicare proposal with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). That relationship could mean that the next chairmen of the House Budget Committee and the Senate finance committee in the next Congress would already have a strong working relationship. Wyden is currently the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Source: Various and Forbes Magazine at http://www.forbes.com/sites/beltway/2013/12/26/finance-chairman-in-waiting-ron-wyden-is-a-tax-reformer/ and The Hill at http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/domestic-taxes/193712-tax-reform-even-less-likely-if-baucus-becomes-ambassador-to