Barr speaks to Chamber members

Published 1:55 pm Saturday, October 28, 2017

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr said he expects discussions about comprehensive tax reform on the horizon nationally in the near future.

There has not been significant tax reform since 1986, Barr said during a Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce policy luncheon Friday.

“We’re going to light this economy up,” he said.

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The present tax code, he said, costs individuals a total of $99 billion and businesses $147 billion annually, just to comply with the existing code.

“We have this crazy system with the highest industrial tax rate of any industrialized nation in the world — 35 percent,” Barr said.

Corporations operating overseas are taxed both ways on moving money, he said.

“It means businesses are taking jobs overseas,” he said.

The goal, he said, is to radically simplify the system. The new plan is scheduled to be unveiled next week, which would reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three. Business taxes would be cut to 25 percent. The lowest tax bracket would be at 0 percent, he said, and the standard deduction would be doubled.

Ninety percent of individuals should be able to do their income taxes on a large postcard, he said. Businesses would be able to deduct 100 percent of new equipment and similar purchases in the first year.

Those reforms, coupled with other plans to revamp the Dodd-Frank banking act and reduce oversight on financial institutions “will help unclog the plumbing” and increase growth in the community, he said.

Health care reform, he said, is still an ongoing discussion in Washington and across the nation.

One change which would help businesses grow, Barr said, would be to amend the requirement for businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health insurance or face a penalty.

“I can’t tell you how many employers have told me they are stuck (at 49 employees) because of Obamacare,” he said.

Barr proposed raising the cap to 100 employees and redefining full-time as 40 hour per week.

Reform, he said, is still very much a work in progress.

“There are discussions going on,” he said. “It’s got to be a real compromise.”

President Donald Trump’s declaration of opioid abuse being a national health emergency this week will help the fight locally and nationally, Barr said.

“I see a commitment and a focus there that’s very encouraging,” he said.

Additional funding to Kentucky could take a number of forms, including expanding the Appalachian HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) into central Kentucky, which would bring federal assets to help local law enforcement, he said.

Barr said he has also spoken to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson about expanding transitional public housing and helping those who have convictions or drug abuse issues.

In international affairs, Barr said North Korea represents a “severe threat” to the nation and its allies as it continues to test nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“We no longer have the luxury of time with North Korea and we need to address this situation,” he said. “The denuclearization of the peninsula, that’s the ultimate objective. We have not, to date, put ultimate pressure on North Korea. We have lots of levers to pull in terms of our financial sanctions.”

The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved sanctions against any foreign bank where customers funnel money to North Korea illegally. Sanctions would include those banks losing access to banks and accounts in the United States.

“We’ve already banned direct finance,” he said. “We’re going to cut off the flow of illicit finance.”

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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