Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Tuesday in a speech in the Senate that the committee will vote on a tax reform bill this fall.
However, a recent Tax Analysts’ survey showed that only a minority of Senators said they would participate in the “blank slate” approach to tax reform that was proposed by the Senate’s top two tax-writers, indicating a difficult hurdle to overcome and move forward with comprehensive tax reform.
Of the 59 senators Tax Analysts surveyed, only 28 — 18 Democrats and 10 Republicans — said they would participate in some form of a “blank slate” tax reform approach.
Baucus and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the committee’s top Republican, took the “blank slate” approach in late June when they circulated a Dear Colleague letter asking their 98 fellow-lawmakers to justify which tax breaks should be kept in the code. The “blank slate” approach would essentially strip all existing tax deductions, exemptions and credits — including the exclusion for tax exemption for muni bonds — from the code and then add back the provisions most strongly backed by members.
Typically, Democrats are committed to raising revenue through tax reform while Republicans prefer lowering rates while broadening the tax base.
In the Survey, 14 Senators — 13 Republicans and one Democrat — said they would not offer suggestions to Baucus and Hatch’s request. Another 17 — 10 Republicans and seven Democrats — said they were still considering whether to participate.
Of the senators planning to participate in the “blank slate” approach, not all plan to submit a detailed letter to Baucus and Hatch, the survey said. Instead several of them, including Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, will broadly outline what they would like to see overhauled in the tax code.
The senators who said they would not participate in Baucus’ and Hatch’s approach offered a variety of reasons, saying either that it did not go far enough, it was too drastic, or it was not their place to provide feedback.
The senators have until Friday, July 26 to submit their proposals to the tax-writing leaders.
Meanwhile, Baucus and his House counterpart, House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., have been barnstorming the Midwest over the past few weeks promoting their visions for bipartisan tax reform.