Collins says Senate tax plan passed by committee 'needs work'

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(Bloomberg) – Senator Susan Collins said the Republican tax plan passed by the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday “needs work.”

“I want to see changes in that bill, and I think there will be changes,” the Maine Republican said on ABC’s “This Week,” one of two appearances she made on Sunday.

Asked directly whether she can vote for the measure as written, Collins said, “I haven’t reached that conclusion yet.”

If no Democrats vote for the Senate bill, Republicans can afford to lose only two votes and still pass it under Senate rules. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has already said he can’t back the bill as written.

Collins said it was a “problem” for her if the provision to remove the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act is repealed as part of the effort to overhaul U.S. tax law. On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Collins stated flatly that “I don’t think that provision should be in the bill. I hope the Senate will follow the lead of the House and strike it.”

“The fact is that if you do pull this piece of the Affordable Care Act out, for some middle-income families, the increased premium is going to cancel out the tax cut that they would get,” Collins said on CNN.

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Sunday that the White House would be OK removing the mandate if it was an “impediment” to passage of the Senate bill, although White House legislative director Marc Short said “we like the fact that the Senate has included it.”

Collins laid out several other critiques of the bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee, of which she’s not a member, after a four-day markup:

The top individual income-tax rate, targeted for reduction in the Senate plan, should be kept at the current 39.6% for people making more than $1 million a year Business tax rates shouldn’t be lowered to 20% from the current 35%. She suggested 22% to allow other deductions to be kept The state and local tax deduction, targeted for elimination in the Senate bill, should be continued.

“We need to restore the tax deduction for state and local taxes, the way that the House did,” Collins said. “That will help our middle-income taxpayers get more tax relief.”

While the Senate bill would end state and local tax deductions, the House bill allows as much as $10,000 in deductions for state and local property taxes. It was a compromise to win the votes of House Republicans in high-tax districts in states such as New York and New Jersey.

On corporate taxes, Collins said that a lower rate would provide an incentive for more hiring and higher wages, “but it does not need to be reduced all the way to 20% for large businesses.”

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