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Tammy Baldwin column: Washington needs to work for Wisconsin, not special interests

This column was written by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Over the last few months, I’ve heard from thousands and thousands of Wisconsinites who are concerned about the Republican tax plan. They feel betrayed by this partisan plan of tax breaks for the wealthy that are paid for by tax increases on working Wisconsinites like them.

Rather than listening to hardworking Americans fighting to get ahead or small business owners who need a tax break, congressional Republicans instead chose to let corporate special interest lobbyists and big donors shape their tax bill.  

The final plan – passed on Tuesday by the House and Senate – is largely a tax giveaway to the wealthiest few, big corporations, and Wall Street. And – worst of all – it will hike taxes on millions of middle-class families.

A new nonpartisan analysis from the Tax Policy Center on the final version of the Republican tax plan shows seriously troubling numbers for Wisconsin:More than half of all Americans would end up with a tax increase.

And at the same time, over 80 percent of the tax breaks would go to the wealthiest 1percent.

The list of concerns goes on. The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that the tax bill would also lead to a 10 percent spike in health care premiums and cause 13 million more Americans to become uninsured.

Corporate special interests and political donors threw their influence behind this legislation, and they are being gifted a tax plan that benefits them, while Wisconsinites foot the bill. Republicans aren’t even trying to hide it - powerful corporations get permanent tax breaks while everyday Americans’ health care is on the chopping block.

The Republican tax plan was a huge missed opportunity to do right by working families in Wisconsin. Big money special interest corruption won out, securing a bill that will cut taxes for billionaires while increasing middle class families’ taxes and health care costs.

However, there is another chance for Washington to finally step-up and do the right thing this week.

Our country is facing yet another crisis as the Friday deadline to avoid a government shutdown gets closer and closer. Not only do we need to prevent a government shutdown, we also need to fund critical programs that have been ignored and are now overdue.

Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired on Sept. 30. CHIP provides quality care for over 9 million American kids, including about 170,000 Wisconsinites.

Yet Washington is ignoring the millions of children who rely on CHIP, focusing instead on gifting tax breaks to corporate special interests.

Partisanship and brinkmanship have gotten the better of Congress and millions of children and their families are left wondering if the health care they have today will be there tomorrow Wisconsin kids deserve better.

We’ve already lost precious time, and we can’t wait any longer to right this wrong by funding CHIP before Congress leaves town for the year.

It’s not only CHIP; Congress should also take this opportunity to pass a budget that protects millions of pensions, invests in local efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, helps seniors access the Social Security benefits they have earned, and improves the VA to ensure our veterans have the quality care they have earned and deserve.

I’ve heard from so many Wisconsinites during this tax debate. And their message is simple: Congress needs to start working for Wisconsin – for our families, working people, dairy farmers, and small business owners – and stop doing favors for big money special interests who have too much power and influence in Washington. I opposed the Republican tax plan because it fails to meet that test, instead hiking taxes on the middle class and increasing health care costs – all to pay for big tax cuts for corporate special interests and the richest 1percent.

The tax plan’s passage is a setback for working families across Wisconsin and the country. But Democrats and Republicans can and should nevertheless come together to finish the year with a budget that avoids a government shutdown while providing essential funding for children’s health care and investments in Wisconsin working families.