When people ask me whether Steve Daines is truly vulnerable in his 2020 re-election bid, my answer is almost always the same: if the Montana media truly explore his record—not his rhetoric—and an opponent can exploit his practice of putting his own interests ahead of those of the people of Montana, Daines can and should be defeated.
And there’s perhaps no better example of a problematic record than Daines’s support last year for a disastrous tax policy, one that simultaneously increased the deficit, giving Daines a massive tax break while increasing taxes on survivor benefits to Gold Star families who lost their family members serving in the military.
That’s right. The massive giveaway to the wealthiest few Americans did raise taxes on some people, including children who lost military parents, with the tax rate increasing from 12% to 37%.
From Task & Purpose, a military publication:
The increase was due to a change with the “Kiddie Tax” under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in December 2017. Previously, survivors benefits that were allocated to the children of a fallen service member were taxed at the parent’s rate. Under the new tax code, those benefits are instead treated the same as a trust or estate, which means they can be taxed at a rate as high as 37%, and that threshold is reached faster than it was before.
Military.com continues the reporting, noting that kids receiving survivor benefits will pay a higher tax rate on them than people who make a half million dollars annually will on their income:
Many Gold Star families are reporting that their 2018 income taxes on SBP payments have nearly tripled from the 2017 amounts.
Until the widows’ tax ends, or the tax law is further amended to remove this huge tax increase, many children who lost a parent in the war will end up paying higher income taxes on their survivor benefits than someone making $500,000 annually.
That, of course, takes us back to Daines. The Center for American Progress Fund estimates that Daines will reduce his tax burden by $422,000 from just one element of the tax bill, a real estate partnership pass through proposal that was so important to him that he threatened to block the bill without its inclusion. Ultimately, Daines only voted for the tax package when the pass-through he demanded became part of the law.
And because Daines was elected to serve his financial interest, not the needs of Montanans, he is fighting to make this massive giveaway permanent. Politico reports that, despite the ballooning deficit that has increased by 17 percent in fiscal year 2018, Daines is working hard to make the giveaway permanent:
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) will be dropping a bill today to make permanent the TCJA’s 20 percent deduction for pass-through income, a proposal already introduced in the House by Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Jason Smith (R-Mo.). The two Republicans are both tax writers, and Daines, along with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), played a big role in making the law’s pass-through provisions more generous.
Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about how Daines has not fought for Montana’s middle class in general while expending his limited political capital on pass-through exemptions for himself and his family, but today I want to focus on this: Senator Daines, who claims to support the military, fought for the passage of a tax law that will massively enrich him even though it meant children who lost fathers and mothers who died serving in war had their tax rates on their meager survivor benefits boosted to the highest levels in the tax code.
And now he’s focused on extending his own kickback while those families struggle to make ends meet. From CBS News:
Theresa Jones has been a single mom to Anthony and Hunter for almost six years. Her husband Landon, a Navy chopper pilot, died in the Red Sea during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2013.
The boys each received about $15,000 in survivor benefits last year. Jones was hit with a tax bill of $5,400 for them, up from $1,100 from the previous year.
“That’s how they have a roof over their head. That’s how they have food in their mouths. That’s why the lights are on right now. That’s how we survive every month,” Jones said.
Of course Steve Daines is vulnerable in 2020. We simply need to make sure that people know exactly who he is and what he stands for.