As a Mainer, I’ve always appreciated Sen. Susan Collins’ independent streak and willingness to listen to other viewpoints. I hope she’s listening now.
As a veteran, it pains me to see just how badly the Republican tax bill that the Senate just passed will hurt my fellow veterans. What’s worse, I’m heartbroken to see Collins vote for this bill that punishes veterans and threatens millions of families’ health and well-being by dismantling a key part of the Affordable Care Act.
I’d expect such cruelty from the far-right fringe. I’m shocked to see Collins go along with it.
First, we need to examine just how badly this tax package hurts veterans.
By 2027, the Senate bill raises taxes on the majority of families earning less than $75,000 per year. The median income for a veteran is just half that, meaning the bill will punish many veterans’ families with a higher tax burden. With more than 127,000 veterans in Maine, that’s a high cost.
Billionaires, however, see a huge windfall, paid for by the higher taxes on veterans and other American families. And what do our children inherit? A deficit that is estimated to explode by another $1.4 trillion.
Provisions in the House version of the bill that may make their way into the final bill include the elimination of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which encourages businesses to hire veterans. Hundreds of thousands of veterans have found work because of this tax credit, and repealing them will result in fewer veterans finding jobs.
The House bill would also eliminate the Disabled Access Tax Credit, a credit that helps small businesses comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which ensures that the nearly 32,000 disabled veterans in Maine can live in a safe, inclusive and accessible environment.
But perhaps nothing is more odious than the bill’s repeal of a key part of the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate — a move that would explode the number of uninsured by 13 million people by 2025 and increase health insurance premiums by 10 percent, or about $2,300 per family in Maine.
Hundreds of thousands of veterans gained insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. Gutting the Affordable Care Act would take an extremely heavy toll on veterans in the Pine Tree State.
Collins is indicating that she would be OK with that if two other pieces of legislation, the Alexander-Murray and Collins-Nelson bills, are passed along with the tax bill. But inclusion of these plans would not mitigate the damage caused by gutting the Affordable Care Act in this budget bill.
Collins-Nelson would add funds to stabilize markets for the next two years, to stem the damage caused by Trump’s previous sabotage of the program. In short, it would not do anything beyond 2019. And while it could help an estimated 1 million people gain insurance, that hardly makes a dent in the 13 million who will become uninsured by 2027 because of the repeal of the individual mandate in the tax bill.
And while Collins points to the $10 billion that her plan spends to stabilize the Affordable Care Act market over the next two years, it’s next to nothing when you consider that repealing the individual mandate would reduce federal health care spending by $320 billion.
So what are we left with? Collins already voted yes on a bill that pummels veterans to pay for billionaire tax cuts. On top of it, she’s willing to consign millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured, including thousands upon thousands of veterans, as part of that same bill.
I have to believe Collins is under great pressure from President Donald Trump and doesn’t want to become a target of his ire. I understand that, and I know Trump can be a bully. But, I’m hopeful that if the bill comes back to the Senate, the Collins I know will stand up to that bullying and say, “No, Mr. President, I will not vote for this bill that hurts Maine’s veterans so badly.”
Collins, please don’t let us down. Don’t vote for this anti-veteran, anti-Maine tax scam. She is better than that.
Alex Luck served in the U.S. Army’s infantry, both as a noncommissioned and commissioned officers, from 1967 to 1990. He lives in Southwest Harbor.
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