As the U.S. Senate considers a sweeping revision of American income tax laws, Sen. Dan Sullivan is gathering the thoughts of Alaskans.
On Monday, he began a “milk run” tour of Southeast Alaska, starting in Juneau and continuing on to the other destinations of Alaska Airlines’ regular route. He will spend Tuesday in Juneau, head to Sitka, and conclude his swing in Ketchikan before returning to Washington, D.C.
After stopping at Wildflower Court and meeting Filipino community leaders, he held a small roundtable discussion with the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s just enormously helpful” to hear from different groups, Sullivan said.
Sullivan is generally in favor of what he calls the tax reform “framework” created with the input of Republican leaders in the White House, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House.
What he’s interested in hearing is whether Alaskans have concerns with specific items in that framework.
Angela Rodell, director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, offered one: She’s concerned that other countries might retaliate against the U.S. if provisions in the bill affect their national interests.
According to reporting by the Associated Press, the tax framework as it exists today would boost the national debt by some $1.5 trillion over the next decade.
Sullivan said he’s concerned by that, but he’s interested in other things as well.
“I worry about it a lot, but one of the most important things when you look at the debt and the deficit. From my perspective … the most important way to address it is to grow out of it,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after the Chamber roundtable, Sullivan called tax reform part of “a balance, with the broader objective of what can stimulate the economy.”
Sullivan is an economic optimist and believes that the national Gross Domestic Product — a measure of American economic output — can rise by 3 percent annually. Current projections are for growth in the range of 1-2 percent annually.
“To me, I think one of the most dangerous concepts in Washington that is starting to get cemented is the 1-1.5-2 percent GDP growth is the new normal, is America firing on all cylinders,” he said.
A growing economy is a solution to a lot of the nation’s social problems, he said.
Tax reform, together with reductions in regulations and improvements in infrastructure, are part of a package to boost the economy, he said.
Sullivan, echoing previous comments by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, said the goal is to have a tax reform measure passed by December.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Sullivan said. “In order to get serious reform, there are going to have to be some tough choices.”
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