President Donald Trump in Cincy: Improve roads, waterways across U.S.

Published: Wednesday, June 07, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, June 08, 2017 @ 4:58 PM

Trump in Cincy

President Donald Trump on Tuesday outlined a plan to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridge, railways, dams and other infrastructure that would shift the largest portion of the cost to states, local governments and the private sector.

“At least $200 billion of the $1 trillion plan will come from direct federal investment,” Trump said in front of about 500 people at Rivertowne Marina along the Ohio River in Cincinnati. “Working with states, local government and private industry we will insure that these new federal funds are matched by significant additional dollars for maximum efficient and accountability.”

>>PHOTO GALLERY: The president visits Ohio

It is not clear where states like Ohio and many local governments would get the money to pay larger portions of the cost for infrastructure repair and construction. Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor was in the audience and said Canada has had success with public-private partnerships. Even so, she said she would need to see more details of Trump’s plan.

“We do have to look at ways to fund it. The gasoline tax is not keeping up,” said Taylor, a Republican running for governor in 2018.

>>RELATED: Reaction to President Trump’s event in Cincinnati

Kevin W. Burch, president of Jet Express Inc. and chairman of the American Trucking Association, said the nation’s highways must be improved for the sake of commerce. He said $200 billion in federal funding is a starting point, but not enough. He advocates increasing the federal gasoline tax for the first time since 1993.

“The problem that we have is our government officials do not want any increase in taxes,” Burch said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a statement after the speech applauding Trump for focusing on rebuilding infrastructure.

Linda and Tom Jones of Loveland. Mr. Jones' brother, Don, owns the Rivertowne Marina in Cincinnati where President Donald Trump will speak today. Photo by Lynn Hulsey(Lynn Hulsey)

“The Chamber and the business community look forward to engaging with the White House and with Congress to develop and implement a long-term plan that will bring our nation’s infrastructure up to speed and spur economic growth. Now is the time to take action and to get the job done,” said Executive Director for Transportation Infrastructure Ed Mortimer.

Trump’s speech came after he landed at Cincinnati Lunken Airport and spoke to two families there about the impact of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which he opposes and wants to repeal and replace.

RELATED: Trump flying to Cincinnati on smaller Air Force One

Raya Mafazy Whalen, who with her husband Michael own Troy-based playground equipment company, PlayCare, said she told Trump about how she had to change doctors when she was pregnant because the OB-GYN she wanted to go to wasn’t covered under the insurance she had through the ACA. She said her husband had offered an insurance plan to employees but canceled it because it didn’t offer required coverage. As a result some employees left, she said.

“(Trump) was incredibly kind and warm,” said Whalen, who headed Women for Trump Montgomery County and founded Young Republican Women of Dayton.

RELATED: Trump visits with Oakwood family during his stop in Cincinnati

At the marina, Trump noted that Anthem had on Monday announced it was pulling out of the ACA marketplace in Ohio. The company said it was because of the uncertainty about what the federal government was doing with health insurance and a decline in the individual market.

“Bye bye,” said Trump. “What a mess.”

Trump called Democrats “obstructionists” who won’t help with the repeal and replacement of the ACA.

“That’s why they lost the House, they lost the Senate, the White House,” Trump said.

The Democratic National Committee responded by saying Republicans had sabotaged the ACA and were to blame for 70,000 Ohioans losing insurance through Anthem.

RELATED: Trump visit sparks debate over infrastructure needs, costs

“Republicans should abandon their spiteful, one-party health care repeal crusade and instead work with Democrats to make Obamacare work better,” said Erick Walker, DNC spokesman.

Terrence Clark, spokesman for the progressive Center for American Progress Action Fund, said states are already facing big increased costs if Trump’s proposed budget is approved.

“While Trump is coming in to sell Ohioans and all Americans a bill of goods with his trillion-dollar infrastructure package, he’s skirting the fact that his budget directly undercuts millions of Americans – especially those in more rural areas - relying on other programs that will be cut, such as Medicaid and Social Security benefits,” Clark said.

Much of Trump’s speech was spent talking about what he said was the terrible state of American roads and bridges and touting progress he said he’s made cutting regulations.

Get up-to the-minute information on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics

“People are so impressed we have cut so many regulations,” Trump said, adding that his plan for infrastructure includes more cuts in regulations and speeding up the time it takes to get construction projects done.

He said the U.S. spends trillions of dollars overseas, including helping fight wars in the Middle East, but “we don’t ever seem to have the money ” to fix roads and bridges.

“It’s time finally to put America first and that’s what I’ve been doing if you hadn’t noticed,” Trump said.

RELATED: Trump infrastructure plan remains on the drawing board

RELATED: Trump to emphasize infrastructure plan during Cincy visit

President Trump coming to Cincinnati

He compared the initiative Americans showed by building the Panama Canal, the interstate highway system and the Golden Gate Bridge with what he said was a lack of will today.

“We don’t do that anymore. We don’t even fix the old highways anymore,” Trump said.

Trump also talked about problems with the nation’s 12,000-mile inland waterway system.

“These critical corridors depend on a dilapidated system of locks and dams that is more than half-a-century old, and their condition continues to decay,” he said. “Capital improvements of this system have been massively underfunded - and there is an $8.7 billion maintenance backlog that is only getting worse.”

The waterways are important to transportation and have “relied primarily on federal funding,” according to an infrastructure information sheet released by the White House. The document blames deferred maintenance and insufficient revenue to operate the current system and the 24 projects costing $7 billion that are authorized but not yet paid for.

RELATED: Ohio wants to fund smart highways, variable speed limits

It says the $8.7 billion cost of improving the inland waterways “could be financed through a modest fee on the beneficiaries of the system.”

RELATED: Trump to visit Cincinnati on Wednesday

Trump spoke with the Ohio River as his backdrop and with barges of what he said was West Virginia coal docked on the Kentucky shoreline. A large American flag was draped over the barge tugboat before he spoke. Trump said a new coal mine is opening next week and he also has a plan to stop the dumping of cheap foreign steel in the U.S.

“The steel folks are going to be very happy,” said Trump.

Trump said his plans will bring prosperity

“We too will see jobs and wealth flood into the heartland and see new products and new produce made and grown right here in the U.S.A. And you don’t hear that much anymore,” said Trump. “We will buy American and we will hire American.”

He said he is not content to let the country “become a museum of former glories.”

“We will construct incredible new monuments to American grit that inspire wonder for generations and generations to come,” Trump said. “We will build because that is how we make America great again.”

RELATED: Chao on infrastructure: Trump plan out in weeks 

President Donald Trump speaks about healthcare at Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wednesday, June 7, 2017. Shown are PlayCare co-owner Rays Whalen, left, and CSS Distribution Group President Dan Withrow and their families.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Five things to watch for in Congress this week

Published: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 3:04 AM

With two weeks until Christmas, the to-do list is a long one for the Congress, as GOP lawmakers try to finish work on a sweeping overhaul of the federal tax code, fund the government into 2018, and look to deal with a number of other contentious issues that have eluded lawmakers and the White House, but it’s not clear how much the House and Senate will be able to accomplish before going home for the holidays

“If things don’t get done, we are going to have quite a catastrophe,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), one of many GOP lawmakers who remain confident that Republican leaders will find a way to reach a deal on tax reform.

“I think this is one that we’re going to get done,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). “There’s unanimity in the conference to get this done.”

Here is what lies ahead for lawmakers in the Congress:

1. GOP must move quickly to finish tax reform bill. If Republicans are going to get a tax reform bill on the President’s desk before Christmas, they don’t have much time. Lawmakers certainly don’t want to be on Capitol Hill after Friday the 22nd; the first formal meeting of the House-Senate tax reform “conference” committee is on Wednesday, but that’s really more for show. Behind the scenes, key GOP lawmakers have already been trying to reach agreements on final language in the bill. If you want a full rundown on the differences between the House and Senate versions, read this comparison from the Joint Committee on Taxation. There have already been a number of stories about mistakes and loopholes in the GOP tax reform plan – we’ll see if those get resolved as well. This is no slam dunk, but the odds still favor the GOP.

2. Next stop gap budget runs out on December 22. There isn’t enough time to write a full “Omnibus” spending bill (Speaker Ryan said that last week), so the question is more likely how much will Congress get done on funding the operations of the federal government, and how much gets booted into 2018. Republicans have been making noise about approving a funding bill for the military, keeping all other agencies on a temporary budget, and then adding in a bunch of year-end sweeteners to the bill. It’s also possible that such a deal could increase the ‘budget caps,’ allowing for a larger defense budget, and maybe more domestic spending as well. The idea of increasing spending just before the holidays does not sit well with more conservative Republicans. And what about DACA and the immigrant Dreamers? There could be a lot of wheeling and dealing in the days ahead.

3. Will there be more shoes dropping on Capitol Hill? After what was a historic week – where three members announced their resignations due to allegations of sexual misconduct – it’s not unreasonable to wonder if more stories will surface in coming days. There’s already pressure on Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) to resign – an ethics probe was announced last Friday on Farenthold, who says he will pay back an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement with a former staffer. Over the weekend, reports surfaced about another possible taxpayer payout related to a harassment lawsuit, involving Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). As a reporter, I cannot stress how unusual last week was on Capitol Hill. If you have one lawmaker announce a resignation, that’s a big deal. Two resignations was a major headline. And then a surprise third. One cannot discount the possibilities that more such stories are in the pipeline. Stay tuned.

4. From member of Congress to anti-filibuster PAC? Last Thursday, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) stunned his colleagues by announcing his resignation, effective January 31. But on Friday, he decided to make it effective immediately, citing the hospitalization of his wife, after revelations that he had tried to get female staffers in his office to be a surrogate for his child (not a campaign surrogate). In between those events, a Minnesota television news crew that was in Washington to cover the resignation of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), stumbled into Franks at their hotel, as they overheard the Arizona Republican on the phone soliciting big money donations to start a political action committee that would fight to get rid of the filibuster in the Senate, which Franks, and other more conservative Republicans in the House have been blaming for inaction on the GOP agenda. The news crew that stumbled into that story must still be shaking their heads about their luck.

5. Roy Moore and the Alabama U.S. Senate race. Tuesday is finally Election Day in the Yellowhammer State, and no matter what else is happening in the halls of Congress this week, the outcome of this race will be a big deal. If Moore wins, a lot of GOP Senators won’t like the outcome. If Democrat Doug Jones wins, that will be a setback for President Donald Trump, who tried to stir support for Moore during a Fright night rally in Pensacola, Florida. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telegraphed last week that if Roy Moore wins, then the new Alabama Senator is certain to face a review by the Senate Ethics Committee. Alabama’s senior Senator, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), made it clear again on Sunday that he wrote in someone else – instead of voting for Roy Moore. Just that part of the story is highly unusual, let alone all the other news stories that keep coming out about Moore’s past actions and beliefs. It would be an unprecedented situation if Moore wins, since so many GOP Senators have made it crystal clear that they want no part of him.

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Same income, but not taxes in GOP plans

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 3:42 PM
Updated: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 3:42 PM


            Same income, but not taxes in GOP plans
Same income, but not taxes in GOP plans

In most places, a dollar is a dollar. But in the tax code envisioned by Republicans, the amount you make may be less important than how you make it.

Consider two chefs working side by side for the same catering company, doing the same job, for the same hours and the same money. The only difference is that one is an employee, the other an independent contractor.

Under the Republican plans, one gets a tax break and the other doesn’t.

That’s because for the first time since the United States adopted an income tax, a higher rate would be applied to employee wages and salaries than to income earned by proprietors, partnerships and closely held corporations.

The House and Senate bills vary in detail, but both end up linking tax rates to a whole new set of characteristics, like ownership, level of involvement, organizational structure or even occupation. These rules, mostly untethered from income level, could raise or lower tax bills by hundreds or thousands of dollars for ordinary taxpayers and millions of dollars for the largest eligible businesses.

“We’ve never had a tax system where wage earners were substantially penalized” relative to other types of income earners, said Adam Looney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Treasury Department official.

So a decorator, an artist or a plumber would have a higher tax rate than an owner of a decorating business, an art shop or a plumbing supply store. A corporate accountant could have a higher rate than a partner in an accounting firm. In the House bill, the head of a family business who works 60-hour weeks would have a higher rate than her brother, who gets an equal share of the profits but spends his days playing “Call of Duty.”

The proposals’ impact rises steeply as paychecks grow. High-income earners — roughly the upper 10 percent — who can take advantage of the new distinctions would be rewarded with substantial gains compared with those who can’t.

Supporters argue that the revised tax regime is an attempt to update the code to reflect changes in the economy. Rather than depend primarily on individual rate cuts to further power the economy, the Republican plans focus on cutting taxes on certain types of business income. The idea is that these businesses will reinvest those higher returns and stimulate growth.

“This is a radically different approach,” said Fred Goldberg, commissioner of internal revenue under President George H.W. Bush.

Corporations and other types of businesses get the biggest cuts. Employees don’t.

“Theoretically, this makes a certain amount of sense in a vacuum,” said Jared Walczak, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Tax Foundation. “It’s just difficult to define what constitutes wage income compared to business income.”

Indeed, economists and tax experts across the political spectrum warn that the proposed system would invite tax avoidance. The more the tax code distinguishes among types of earnings, personal characteristics or economic activities, the greater the incentive to label income artificially, restructure or switch categories in a hunt for lower rates.

Expect the best-paid dentists to turn into corporations so they can take advantage of the new 20 percent corporate tax rate, instead of having to pay a top marginal rate of nearly 40 percent on some of their income. Individual income taxes can be deferred on profits left inside a corporation instead of deposited in a personal account. What’s more, corporations can deduct local and state taxes, which individual filers can’t.

Look for a wave of promotions as staff lawyers on salary suddenly turn into partners to qualify for the 23 percent deduction the Senate bestowed on pass-through businesses.

Pass-throughs, which range from an ice cream stand to multibillion-dollar operations like Georgia-Pacific (a Koch Industries subsidiary) and Fidelity Investments, don’t pay corporate taxes. Instead, they pass through income to their owners or shareholders, who pay taxes at the ordinary rate on their individual returns.

The Republican provisions applying to pass-throughs have been singled out for some of the greatest scorn. Writing about the House version, Dan Shaviro, a professor of taxation at New York University …(Continued on next page)

Law School who worked on the 1986 tax overhaul, said it “might be the single worst proposal ever prominently made in the history of the U.S. federal income tax.”

Uneven treatment is compounded by other rules that unintentionally introduced preferences.

To prevent certain professionals and specialists like investment managers, doctors, athletes, performers and others from reorganizing themselves as pass-throughs, the Senate excluded households with joint incomes of $500,000 or more (and $250,000 for single taxpayers). But the peculiar way the income scale is phased out means that solo practitioners and partners who earn roughly $529,000 to $624,000 could face a tax of up to 85 percent on income between those two thresholds, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

“Wage income will be the highest taxed income,” said John L. Buckley, a chief of staff for Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation in the 1990s. “I think it’s grossly unfair. Somebody working for a wage gets a higher tax rate than somebody doing the same job under a different legal structure.”

Trump trying to help push Moore across Alabama finish line

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 2:19 PM
Updated: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 2:19 PM


            PENSACOLA, FL - DECEMBER 08: U.S. President Donald Trump walks on stage as he holds a rally at the Pensacola Bay Center on December 8, 2017 in Pensacola, Florida. Mr. Trump was expected to further endorse Alabama Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore who is running against Democratic challenger Doug Jones in the adjacent state. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
            Joe Raedle
PENSACOLA, FL - DECEMBER 08: U.S. President Donald Trump walks on stage as he holds a rally at the Pensacola Bay Center on December 8, 2017 in Pensacola, Florida. Mr. Trump was expected to further endorse Alabama Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore who is running against Democratic challenger Doug Jones in the adjacent state. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***(Joe Raedle)

President Donald Trump is trying to push embattled GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore across the finish line in Tuesday’s election in Alabama by contending the Democratic nominee would oppose “what we must do” for the nation.

Trump, in a tweet early Saturday, hours after boosting Moore’s campaign during a Florida rally, framed the race as a referendum on his efforts to reshape the country and said Democrat Doug Jones would work in lockstep with his party’s leaders on Capitol Hill to oppose the Trump agenda.

With Moore denying allegations of sexual misconduct that have arisen late in the campaign, Trump basked in what he called “a big contingent of very enthusiastic Roy Moore fans” at the Friday night event in Pensacola, the Florida Panhandle city near the state line with Alabama.

In a rally cry to Alabama voters, the president tweeted that “we can’t have” a liberal in the mold of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holding the seat in a Senate where the GOP holds a slim 52-48 edge.

“Need your vote to Make America Great Again! Jones will always vote against what we must do for our Country,” Trump wrote.

At the campaign-style event in Pensacola, Trump claimed Jones was the Democratic leaders’ “total puppet and everybody knows it.”

Trump’s wide-ranging speech also touched on the immigration system and the nation’s economic performance since he took office. As Trump spoke about Moore, the Republican candidate tweeted Trump’s comments to his own followers.

Trump also taunted Beverly Nelson, one of Moore’s accusers, who had presented a yearbook inscription by Moore as a key piece of evidence that the candidate knew his accuser. Nelson said Friday she had added a notation marking the date and place where it was signed.

“Did you see what happened today? You know, the yearbook? Did you see that? There was a little mistake made,” Trump said, shifting to singsong. “She started writing things in the yearbook.”

Nelson’s attorney, Gloria Allred, said a handwriting expert has found Moore’s signature in the 1977 yearbook to be authentic.

Moore, who is 70, is facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, including accusations that he molested two teenage girls and pursued romantic relationships with several others while in his 30s. Moore has denied the allegations.

During the rally, Trump also crowed about stock market gains and other upbeat economic indicators. He said he was confident he’d win re-election in 2020, despite his dismal approval rating.

The White House said the rally was a campaign event for Trump. But the location — so close to Alabama and feeding its television markets — stoked speculation that it was a backdoor way for the president to boost Moore’s campaign without actually setting foot in the state.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said the president and White House have made clear that the Moore allegations are “troubling and concerning” and “should be taken seriously.” He also noted that Moore has maintained his innocence, and said that should be considered as well.

“Ultimately his endorsement is about the issues,” Shah said.

Trump, who overcame allegations of sexual misconduct to win last year’s presidential election, looked past the charges against Moore and formally endorsed the former Alabama judge this past week for the seat once held by Jeff Sessions, now U.S. attorney general.

Friday’s campaign rally was Trump’s first since September, when he went to Alabama to campaign for Sen. Luther Strange, who lost the GOP runoff election to Moore.

Republicans step up attacks on FBI officials over handling of Clinton, Trump probes

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 9:33 AM

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and any ties to the campaign of President Donald Trump, Republicans in the Congress have joined Mr. Trump in stepping up attacks on the FBI, raising questions about political bias inside the top ranks of that agency, an effort that could well form the basis for partisan opposition to the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Those sentiments were on full display last Thursday at the first Congressional oversight hearing for the new FBI Director, as Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee repeatedly pressed Christopher Wray for answers on GOP allegations that partisan bias among top FBI officials had infected both the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, and the review of any ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

At the hearing, it didn’t take long for Republican frustration to boil over, as the FBI Director repeatedly refused to give detailed answers about the Clinton and Trump probes, saying – accurately – that the Inspector General of the Justice Department was reviewing how those matters were handled, as Wray sidestepped GOP requests for information.

But that didn’t matter to GOP lawmakers.

“I think you’re walking into a Contempt of Congress,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) snapped, criticizing Wray for fending off a variety of questions, as a number of GOP lawmakers all but asserted that the FBI was illegally withholding information from Congress on a number of fronts.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCJsU39AMQk&w=640&h=390]

Republicans also pressed for more background about two leading FBI officials, who were involved in both the Clinton and Trump probes, demanding more information about Peter Strzok and Andrew Weissman, who GOP lawmakers say expressed anti-Trump feelings to others inside the Justice Department, impacting both of those probes.

Tied into all of this is the contention of some in the GOP that the FBI wrongly used the controversial “dossier” put together about President Trump during the 2016 campaign – which the GOP says was paid for by the Democrats – and possibly funneled to the FBI for its use.

“I mean, there are all kinds of people on Mueller’s team who are pro-Clinton,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), as some Republicans suggested a top to bottom review of key people in the Russia investigation to see if they are harboring anti-Trump sentiments.

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During the over five hour hearing, Democrats asked Wray several times about President Trump’s recent assertion that the FBI was in “tatters” after the stewardship of former Director James Comey.

“I am emphasizing in every audience I can inside the bureau, that our decisions need to be made based on nothing other than the facts and the law,” Wray said.

But judging from the reaction at this oversight hearing – which could have covered any subject – the biggest concern for Republicans right now is pursuing allegations that the FBI was too lenient on Hillary Clinton, and too quick to investigate Donald Trump.