Commentary: WASHINGTON— Today, the Senate approved along party lines a massive tax giveaway to the wealthiest and corporations paid for by students and working families. In addition to adding $1.5 trillion to the national deficit, the Senate voted to partially repeal the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which would leave 13 million Americans uninsured and result in drastic spikes in insurance premiums for millions more. The bill also expands an education tax loophole that would further benefit the wealthy and allow them to set aside money for private school expenses—essentially a voucher program for wealthy families.
Also, as the Washington Post reported, the bill could jeopardize the ability of states and local communities to adequately fund public education, potentially risking state funding for hundreds of thousands of education jobs. The Senate approved the measure even as the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, in a new report titled “A Punishing Decade for School Funding,” found that public investment in K-12 schools has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement:
“Hypocrisy is at the heart of the tax bill approved by Senate Republicans. It reveals the ill-conceived and misguided priorities of Republican leaders in Washington. Instead of providing tax cuts to those who need it most—the middle class and working families—their plan hands massive tax giveaways to corporate special interests and the wealthy. Expanding education tax loopholes in order for wealthy families to stash away money for private school will hurt neighborhood public schools and students.
“They will eliminate the state and local deductions for working people but keep it for wealthy corporations. Millions of hard working people will see their taxes increase. On top of it all, this bill will take away health care coverage for 13 million Americans and cause premiums to spike for millions more. It could also trigger $25 billion in automatic cuts to Medicare in 2018 alone. In the end, this disastrous bill will push crushing debt and tax increases onto the middle class while Medicare, Medicaid, and education will take the brunt of the cuts.
“Public schools have not fully recovered from the Great Recession. Now, by eliminating the state and local tax deduction, the Senate just voted to blow a hole in state and local revenue to support public education, potentially risking the jobs of hundreds of thousands of educators, exposing public school students to serious and potentially damaging consequences—ballooning class sizes and overcrowded classrooms that deprive students of one-on-one attention.
“It is outrageous to hand massive tax giveaways for the wealthy and corporate special interests paid for by students and working families. This is a terrible bill for the American people and we need more courage from members of Congress to stop this runaway train.”