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New ‘SALT’ caucus rejuvenates efforts to relieve deduction cap

GOP gains in the House give critics from high-tax states leverage

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., is playing with a different set of dice this time, but the goal is the same.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., is playing with a different set of dice this time, but the goal is the same. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

​A bipartisan group of House members relaunched a “SALT” caucus on Wednesday as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle prepare for another fight over scrapping a $10,000 limit on deducting state and local taxes.

The caucus is planning to meet and attempt to coalesce around specific policies to deliver constituents relief from the SALT cap, and to serve as the go-to unit for any negotiations to come.

“The first thing we’re gonna do is hopefully find legislation that we can all agree on to address this,” caucus co-chair Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., said at a news conference. “And two, hopefully we can all stand together to make sure that any proposed extension of this cap doesn’t happen. That is very important because people are already talking about it.”

He’s leading the group with fellow Republican Young Kim of California and Democrats Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Anna G. Eshoo of California. 

Republicans set the $10,000 cap in their 2017 tax law, losing some GOP votes in the process. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle from high-tax, blue states like New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois — and particularly in cities and suburbs where the cost of living is high — are now pressing for relief. They could see some momentum thanks to a narrow Republican majority partly won by flipping seats in areas like New York City.

Still, as House Democrats found during their two years of control in Washington, forcing SALT relief into a tax package runs into obstacles from both Democrats and Republicans who argue relief is a giveaway to the wealthy. Caucus members at the press conference argued the cap is an unfair double tax that exacerbates high costs for middle-class families.

At a minimum, the new SALT Caucus plans to be an obstacle itself, refusing an extension of the current limit that’s now set to sunset after 2025.

Garbarino pointed out that time is on cap opponents’ side given the expiration date, and that he believes the caucus will have a meaningful seat at the table on any SALT discussions moving forward. Republicans’ slim House majority could easily allow the group to block bills they oppose.

“I like the odds of having a bunch of new Republicans from states that need to restore SALT,” said Gottheimer, whose “no SALT, no dice” mantra was a common refrain during budget reconciliation talks over the past two years.

Varying proposals

But SALT Caucus members already have a variety of proposals.

Reps. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., and Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., have a bill to lift the SALT cap to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for married couples filing taxes jointly through 2025, before it expires.

Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., a candidate for the Senate seat many expect Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to eventually give up before the 2024 elections, touted her work in the last Congress on a “sensible limit” that would increase federal revenue over the long term.

Porter sponsored legislation with former Rep. Tom Malinowski, R-N.J., that would eliminate the cap for households making up to $400,000, then reinstate the limit on a sliding scale beginning at $60,000 and ultimately phasing out completely for households earning at least $1 million.

Rep. Mike Garcia’s measure would scrap the SALT cap entirely.

“I think we need to hold this ground very firm, not give into negotiations unless it’s a straight-stock removal of this SALT cap,” the California Republican said.

Gottheimer said the caucus would consider two outcomes: letting the cap expire or negotiating from a position of power.

“We’re not going to be a cheap date to our negotiators, so we’re not going to settle for a low-bid offer,” he said. “So if you want to talk, this is the caucus to talk to to get this done, to restore SALT and make life more affordable.”

Members of the new caucus include lawmakers from New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois. Ways and Means Democrats Jimmy Panetta and Brad Schneider were at the news conference. The launch also saw high turnout from freshmen Republicans from New York, including Lawler, Nick LaLota, Anthony D’Esposito and Marc Molinaro.

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