Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) promised swift work on a fourth coronavirus relief package after begrudgingly agreeing to pass the third one last week, and it appears she’s already listing out priorities, including a tax break for “blue state” wealthy and a massive hike in infrastructure spending.
A report in The New York Times claims Pelosi is considering a “retroactive rollback” of “a tax change that hurt high earners in states like New York and California” — the SALT (or “State and Local Taxes” deduction) — in order, it seems, to throw a coronavirus benefit to major Democratic donors.
“A full rollback of the limit on the state and local tax deduction, or SALT, would provide a quick cash infusion in the form of increased tax rebates to an estimated 13 million American households — nearly all of which earn at least $100,000 a year,” The New York Times reports.
Pelosi, of course, complained endlessly about a “corporate handout” in the last stimulus relief package — a “handout” or “slush fund,” as it was often described by cable news commentators, that turned out to be an open fund providing low- and no-interest loans to businesses still suffering from an extended coronavirus lockdown more than six months after it ended. Democrats claimed that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was the only one in charge of doling out the loans, but the final bill passed with not one but two methods of oversight; Mnuchin was never given the ability to make independent decisions on the “corporate handouts.”
Republicans reconstructed the SALT provision back in the early days of the Trump administration, as part of a major tax code overhaul that passed in December of 2017. The tax reform bill’s authors lowered the SALT deduction cap to $10,000 — more than most middle and lower income households pay in state and local taxes, anyway — and instead raised the standard deduction, letting middle and lower income households take larger, regular deductions on their taxes if they so desire.
The move angered Democrats at the time because it largely affected their prime constituencies — and, it seems, even The New York Times recognizes that Pelosi is using a coronavirus relief bill to resurrect the measure.
Pelosi is also taking the opportunity of a fourth coronavirus relief package to pass massive infrastructure spending — something she seems to believe could help save her with President Donald Trump if Republicans balk at other measures included in the bill.
“The president said during the campaign — and since — infrastructure was a priority for him. So that’s why we believe that in terms of recovery, that’s probably the most bipartisan path that we can take,” Pelosi told a weekly press call Tuesday.
President Trump seemed to agree, at least initially, tweeting on Tuesday that he supports a $2 trillion infrastructure spending package noting that it could be a “VERY BIG & BOLD” way of addressing an economic downturn, particularly when interest rates are hovering near or meeting zero.
Before the two parties ink any deals, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says he’d like to see precisely what Pelosi is proposing and, no matter what, no relief is likely to pass before early May, after Congress returns from its month-long Easter recess.