Rep. Kelly rallies south suburbs against GOP tax plan
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Saturday to criticize the GOP's tax overhaul legislation."Our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality," Kelly told a crowd of 100 gathered at Victory Apostolic Church in Matteson for a town hall meeting.
Kelly, D-Chicago, said the GOP's tax plan is economically unfair and its tax increases will eventually hurt most working families.
The Republican-controlled House passed the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act on Dec. 19 without a single Democratic vote, she said. It passed the Republican controlled Senate the next day.
Several speakers at Kelly's meeting acknowledged that most people initially will see tax cuts but poorer people will have a tax increase by 2027 while richer people will get to keep their cuts.
"If you make under $100,000, you are funding the tax breaks for the 1 percent," said Daniel Hertz, a senior policy analyst for the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. He said a family earning $45,000 will see a $300 tax increase by 2027.
Park Forest Mayor John Ostenburg, who also spoke, suggested Republicans structured the plan so it initially has tax cuts so they can keep their jobs after this November's elections.
He added that the tax plan also hurts municipalities because it takes away the ability to refinance project loans for a lower interest rate. Some wealthy communities might benefit from the tax plan because it significantly lowers corporate tax rates, but "that ain't the south suburbs," Ostenburg said.
Kelly said the tax plan was passed without any hearings or debates, unlike the Affordable Care Act. She vowed to work against further implementation of the tax plan and other GOP proposals.
"This is not the end, but only the beginning," Kelly said. "I work in a very bipartisan way, but not this time because of the way this was passed."
Several people in the audience wanted to know how the tax plan would affect commercial activity in the south suburbs.
Ostenburg said the plan would exasperate an already bad situation by making it more difficult for towns to attract businesses.
Kelly said while some companies, such as Walmart and AT&T, are giving bonuses or pay raises to their employees after the tax plan, they're also laying off thousands of workers. The closing of the Matteson Sam's Club, which is owned by Walmart, was announced last week.
Some audience members, such as Audrey Brunson, of Richton Park, and Clyde Wilson, president of a retiree union in Park Forest, wondered if company officials refuse to locate to the south suburbs was because many residents are black.
"What's so wrong about this area?" Brunson asked.
Wilson said businesses are practicing racial profiling and the tax plan was a "bait and switch" because pay increases were coupled with layoffs.
Rod Bashir, of Hazel Crest, questioned how the tax plan or other GOP plans could affect the Affordable Care Act or Medicare.
Kelly said Democrats are fighting "tooth and nail" every day to make sure there are no cuts to health care.
Daniel Rabbitt, a project manager for Heartland Alliance, told the audience Republicans sneaked a repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate into the tax plan, which will eventually lead to higher health-care costs.
Jennifer McIntyre, of Homewood, said she works for the nonprofit Feeding America and asked how the tax plan could affect charitable contributions.
Andrew VanSingel, of the Taxpayer Advocate Service, said the tax plan doubles the standard tax deduction so more people will no longer be claiming deductions for charitable donations on their tax returns.
"Less people are going need to itemize so they may be less inclined to make charitable donations," he said.
Several south suburban mayors also attended the town hall, including from Matteson, Thornton, University Park and Kankakee.
Frank Vaisvilas is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.