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Susan Collins breaks with Republicans on two tax breaks for wealthy

AARON P. BERNSTEIN | REUTERS
AARON P. BERNSTEIN | REUTERS
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks with reporters ahead of the party luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 3, 2017.
By Christopher Burns, BDN Staff
Updated:

Maine Sen. Susan Collins this week came out in opposition to two tax breaks for wealthy Americans long supported by Republicans.

“I do not believe that the top rate should be lowered for individuals who are making more than $1 million a year,” Collins, a moderate Republican, said during an interview with Bloomberg News. “I don’t think there’s any need to eliminate the estate tax.”

President Donald Trump and the Republican leadership in September unveiled a $5 trillion plan to cut taxes for corporations and potentially for individuals, reducing the number of individual tax brackets from seven to three and eliminating the estate tax, among other changes.

The changes would reduce the taxes paid by the top 1 percent of income earners by more than 8 percent, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The rest of Americans would see their tax bills fall by about 2 percent or less.

Collins’ opposition could make for a narrow path to passage for the Republican-backed proposal. Republicans have only a slim majority in the Senate, and Democratic opposition is likely, as party leaders have blasted the proposal as “a massive windfall for the wealthiest Americans.”

Her opposition has derailed repeated attempts by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Collins told Bloomberg News she is “concerned” about proposals to repeal the estate tax and slashing the top individual tax rate from 39.6 percent.

Collins defended the estate tax, a 40 percent levy on estates worth more than $5.49 million for individuals and $10.98 million for couples, saying it avoids “the vast majority of family-owned businesses and farms and ranches.” But Collins told Bloomberg News she was open to raising the cutoff level.

The House Ways and Means Committee was scheduled to release its version of a tax bill Wednesday, and Collins told Bloomberg News the Senate version likely will differ from whatever emerges in the House.

While she declined to say if she would oppose the tax bill, Collins said “there is far more outreach on the tax bill” than on previous health care bills.

“I hope very much to be able to support a tax reform package,” Collins told Bloomberg News. “It’s very difficult — I’m not going to say I can guarantee that because I don’t know what’s going to be in it.”

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