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The GOP takes control of the Senate. It has secured a majority in the Senate but has far from working control in a chamber where 60 votes are needed to do almost anything. Utah’s Orrin Hatch will become the new chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Alabama’s Jeff Sessions is in line to head the Senate Budget Committee. Will the GOP pursue corporate tax reform? Will it push to defund the Affordable Care Act? Will it be willing to bring government to the brink in order to cut spending and regulation? Will Harry Reid reverse roles with Mitch McConnell and use his position as Senate minority leader to block every bill he can?
But first…The Lame Ducks return. Given the change in party control, the post-election session is likely to be relatively short and mostly an exercise in kicking the can down the road. But the last days of the Democratic-led Senate could see some action on key issues: Lawmakers will have to decide how to deal with the federal budget, which currently funds the government only though mid-December, and what to do about scores of expired tax provisions. It is possible, though not likely, that lawmakers will also address the Marketplace Fairness Act and the Internet Tax Freedom Act.
The House stays in GOP hands. Now that the election is over, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin confirmed that he will seek the House Ways & Means Chairmanship. Texas Representative Kevin Brady is also seeking the Ways & Means post. Ryan may be pressed by fellow Republicans on whether taking the chairmanship would preclude a 2016 presidential bid.
Incumbent GOP governors cut taxes and won elections. Sam Brownback won reelection in Kansas, in spite of tax cuts that decimated the state’s revenues. Voters reelected Rick Scott in Florida, perhaps in part because Scott promised to cut $1 billion in taxes in his next term. Scott Walker was reelected in Wisconsin: He cut taxes by about $541 million this year alone. Rick Snyder levied a tax on pensions but cut business taxes, and was reelected in Michigan.
So if a governor raised taxes, did he lose? Illinois Democratic Governor Pat Quinn raised taxes, and lost to Republican Bruce Rauner. But, Illinois voters also voted to raise the minimum wage and tax millionaires. Meanwhile, in deep-blue Maryland, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown was defeated by Republican Larry Hogan, who won in part by tarring Brown with the tax hikes of Democratic governor Martin O’Malley.
Some states gained potential revenue sources thanks to marijuana legalization. In the District of Columbia one can now legally grow marijuana in the comfort of one’s own home, though it still needs Congressional approval for a system of legally selling and taxing weed. Out west in Oregon, recreational marijuana is now legal. But in Florida, medical marijuana was defeated.
As for the public, nearly everybody wants individual tax reform. A poll conducted by Public Opinion strategies found that “simplifying the tax code” was the most supported idea. Eight out of ten voters favored it, and 62 percent strongly backed it. Those surveyed were much less enthusiastic about lowering corporate tax rates. Only 45 percent favored the idea while 48 percent were opposed.
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