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SPARTA TWP. – Even before federal tax changes were passed in December of 2017, there was squawking from both parties about capping the so-called SALT deduction at $10,000. And that is why all but one House Republican from New Jersey opposed what ranks as the most significant domestic achievement of the Trump Administration.
Democrats made a big deal over the cap last fall and the strategy worked. The Dems flipped four House seats, leaving only one Republican left standing, Chris Smith of Mercer County.
But now with tax filing day a week away, the cap is still around, and may be for some time.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, one of those new Democrats elected last fall, was in this Sussex County town Monday morning to answer questions as part of her “Mondays with Mikie” program.
“It’s been killing us,” Sherrill said, referring to the cap on what had been an unlimited deduction for state and local taxes. She said there’s agreement among all New Jersey representatives (Smith included) to do away with the cap, a position also being advocated by representatives of other northeast states. She said the group is trying to come up with a plan to do precisely that.
There are two obvious problems here.
One is that whatever the House comes up with has to pass the Republican-controlled Senate. That is unlikely.
But winning House approval also may be difficult, which is probably why nothing has happened yet. Sherrill acknowledged many around the country see New Jersey’s high income levels (relatively speaking) and wonder why state residents need relief. Some also wonder about why New Jersey property taxes are so high. (Many in-state residents wonder about that as well.)
Still, as Sherrill pointed out ,”We pay more, we get less.”
That was a reference to the fact New Jersey residents in general pay much more in taxes to the feds than they get back from Washington in aid. That situation, which long predates capping the SALT deduction, has been raised for years by members of both parties to no avail.
The congresswoman also fielded a somewhat related question on income inequality.
She agreed with the questioner that this is a growing problem, saying, “We are devolving into a society of haves and have-nots.” And she said capping the SALT deduction on the misguided notion all New Jersey residents are wealthy just makes things worse. Moreover, she said the problem has been exacerbated by tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy and corporations. In particular, she criticized reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent. She said a reduction was necessary, but not one that large. Sherrill said one thing that helps New Jersey is that it remains a state that is very supportive of unions and workers’ rights in general.
About 50 people showed up for this installment of “Mondays with Mikie,” a somewhat clever takeoff of the weekly “Fridays with Frelinghuysen” protests outside the Morristown office of the then-congressman. The issue was the congressman’s reluctance to hold public meetings with constituents.
While Sussex County is a Republican area, it was a friendly audience that offered no hostile, or even, provocative questions. One Republican on hand was Eric Wilsusen, the mayor of Jefferson Township, which is just south of Sparta in Morris County.
Sherrill has been in office about three months and already has held five public gatherings – four “Mondays with Mikie” events and one formal town hall. She also has been active in getting acquainted with Picatinny Arsenal, one of the more important installations in the district. She plans another visit on Thursday.
Even if they don’t attend these public gatherings, it should behoove local Republicans to take note of Sherrill’s outreach.