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Washington, D.C— Today, Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on Supporting Broad-Based Economic Growth and Fiscal Responsibility through a Fairer Tax Code with majority witnesses John L. Buckley, J.D., former Chief Tax Counsel of the House Committee on Ways and Means, and former Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, and Jane G. Gravelle, Ph.D., Senior Specialist in Economic Policy at the Congressional Research Service.

At the hearing, Murray discussed policies that would support workers and families by making our tax code fairer, such as the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act she recently introduced. Senator Murray also called for closing unfair and inefficient tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, in order to reduce budget deficits and invest in national priorities that support economic growth.

Key Excerpts from Chairman Murray’s Opening Statement:

“…this adds up to a 21st century economy where, even as those at the very top continue to prosper, it has become more and more difficult for many families to afford the middle class lifestyle they are working so hard for. I think we can all agree that’s not the kind of economy we want now or in the future. Changes to our tax code can’t solve this problem alone, but there is no question tax reform can and should be a powerful tool in the fight—especially because right now, inefficiency and unfairness in our tax code is actually making things worse.”

“Chairman Camp’s recent tax reform proposal would put every dollar of savings back into lower rates, primarily for corporations and those at the top of the income scale, and would protect the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations from paying their fair share toward reducing our deficit and boosting the economy.”

“The House Republican Budget being debated this week would do all of this as well—but it goes a step further. Their budget would push the top tax rate down to 25 percent, which means middle class families would have to pick up the tab for new tax cuts for the rich.”

“Giving tax breaks to millionaires while doing nothing to help working families keep more of their hard earned income is not only wrong-headed in terms of our budget, it’s also deeply unfair to families across the country who are up against a decades-long trend of rising costs and stagnant wages.”

“Chairman Ryan and I were able to reach a compromise on the budget agreement to avoid another government shutdown and create some economic certainty. Now, I think it’s time for the two parties to build on that bipartisan foundation by coming together and finding ways to make the tax code more fair for working families.”

“The 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act I recently introduced is a good example… The proposal builds on work incentives in the EITC that both Republicans and Democrats agree have been effective. And it is paid for by closing wasteful, unfair corporate tax loopholes that Chairman Camp and Democrats proposed eliminating. Opinion leaders from across the political spectrum have said it would provide much-needed relief to workers and families... I am hopeful that here in Congress, we will see similar support on both sides of the aisle.”

“We should also be looking to close wasteful corporate tax loopholes when it comes to addressing the looming shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund…Some states are already anticipating this crisis. And they’re planning to stop construction projects in their tracks if Congress doesn’t act. Fortunately, President Obama and Chairman Camp have both proposed using corporate revenue to rescue the Highway Trust Fund. So we should be able to find a bipartisan solution to this challenge.”

Full Text of Chairman Murray’s Opening Statement:

“This hearing will now come to order.

“I’d like to thank Ranking Member Senator Sessions and all of my colleagues for coming today.

“We have a great group of witnesses here to speak with us: John Buckley, former Chief Tax Counsel on the Ways and Means Committee and a former Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, Dr. Jane Gravelle, a Senior Specialist in Economic Policy at the Congressional Research Service, and Senator Sessions has invited Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

“Welcome and thank you all for being here.

“I’m glad to have the opportunity to hear from you about how we can use our tax code to expand opportunity, encourage broad-based growth, and tackle our budget challenges.

“Our country has seen a lot of changes over the last several decades—and one of the most striking is the widening gap between those at the top and everybody else.

“In the last thirty years, the top one percent of the income distribution has seen their earnings rise by more than 250 percent.

“But earnings for those in the middle class and those struggling to make ends meet have stayed stagnant—or even declined.

“Costs for everything from health care to college tuition have gone up.

“And especially coming out of the financial crisis and the Great Recession that began in 2007, the good middle class jobs that helped so many families climb the economic ladder in the past are fewer and farther between.

“All of this adds up to a 21st century economy where, even as those at the very top continue to prosper, it has become more and more difficult for many families to afford the middle class lifestyle they are working so hard for.

“I think we can all agree that’s not the kind of economy we want now or in the future.

“Changes to our tax code can’t solve this problem alone, but there is no question tax reform can and should be a powerful tool in the fight—especially because right now, inefficiency and unfairness in our tax code is actually making things worse.

“Today, our tax code is riddled with wasteful loopholes and special-interest carve-outs.

“In 2014 alone tax expenditures, or the countless special tax breaks in our code, will cost us $1.4 trillion.

“That’s more than we’re expected to spend on Medicare, Social Security, or our national defense this year.

“And far too many of these tax breaks are skewed to benefit those who need them the least.

“There is a real need for reform when it comes to these unfair tax breaks—and I’m grateful in particular to Senator Whitehouse for his focus on this issue.

“Because, by letting them continue, we are spending a lot of money through the tax code on wasteful and inefficient giveaways to people and businesses who don’t need help, At a time when investing in better schools, infrastructure repairs, or medical research would benefit a lot of families who really do.

“On top of that, we are also missing an important opportunity to help tackle our long-term budget challenges without burdening seniors or the most vulnerable Americans.

“Our economic, fiscal, and demographic situation is very different than what it was in 1986, when the last major overhaul of the tax code took place.

“While the near-term budget outlook has improved significantly, we still need to tackle the long-term debt that grew sharply as a result of two unpaid for wars, the massive 2001 and 2003 tax cuts skewed towards the wealthiest, and the lingering effects of the recession.

“And, as our population ages in the coming decades, more and more seniors will rely on the Medicare and Social Security benefits they are owed.

“When you add all of this up, it’s very clear that tax reform that doesn’t ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share is simply fiscally irresponsible.

“And every bipartisan group that has examined our budget situation has reached the same conclusion.

“Now, I know that many of my Republican colleagues prefer a different approach.

“Chairman Camp’s recent tax reform proposal would put every dollar of savings back into lower rates, primarily for corporations and those at the top of the income scale, and would protect the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations from paying their fair share toward reducing our deficit and boosting the economy.

“The House Republican Budget being debated this week would do all of this as well—but it goes a step further.

“Their budget would push the top tax rate down to 25 percent, which means middle class families would have to pick up the tab for new tax cuts for the rich.

“Giving tax breaks to millionaires while doing nothing to help working families keep more of their hard earned income is not only wrong-headed in terms of our budget, it’s also deeply unfair to families across the country who are up against a decades-long trend of rising costs and stagnant wages.

“Now, I know everyone here is well aware of the differences between the two parties when it comes to comprehensive tax reform.

“And I want to express my appreciation for Senator Wyden, who in his new role as Finance Chairman will be tackling these tough issues.

“As we look for opportunities to move forward on the larger effort, I’m hopeful that we can also look for opportunities to compromise in areas where there is some more agreement right now.

“Chairman Ryan and I were able to reach a compromise on the budget agreement to avoid another government shutdown and create some economic certainty.

“Now, I think it’s time for the two parties to build on that bipartisan foundation by coming together and finding ways to make the tax code more fair for working families.

“We can do this by getting rid of some of those wasteful loopholes I mentioned earlier—and putting the savings towards helping working families keep more of their money, and making job-creating investments  in areas like infrastructure and R&D that both sides agree are important.

“The 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act I recently introduced is a good example.

“This bill would complement critical reforms like raising the minimum wage, by updating our tax code to help today’s workers and families keep more of what they earn.

“It would give working families with children a 20 percent deduction on a second-earner’s income.

“And it would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, for workers without dependent children, like those who are just starting out, or those whose children have already left home.

“The proposal builds on work incentives in the EITC that both Republicans and Democrats agree have been effective.

“And it is paid for by closing wasteful, unfair corporate tax loopholes that Chairman Camp and Democrats proposed eliminating.

“Opinion leaders from across the political spectrum have said it would provide much-needed relief to workers and families.

“One conservative commentator wrote in the National Review that the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act is a ‘serious proposal that has the potential to better the lives of a large number of workers.’

“And a New York Times editorial columnist said it would be ‘a huge benefit to low-income childless families and two-earner families.’

“I am hopeful that here in Congress, we will see similar support on both sides of the aisle.

“We should also be looking to close wasteful corporate tax loopholes when it comes to addressing the looming shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund.

“That fund supports transportation projects that ease congestion and make much-needed repairs to our roads and bridges.

“But in just a few months, at the height of construction season, the Highway Trust Fund will reach critically low levels.

“That could lead to a construction shutdown across the country this summer, which would halt critical projects and put construction workers out of their jobs.

“Some states are already anticipating this crisis.

“And they’re planning to stop construction projects in their tracks if Congress doesn’t act.

“Fortunately, President Obama and Chairman Camp have both proposed using corporate revenue to rescue the Highway Trust Fund.

“So we should be able to find a bipartisan solution to this challenge.

“I am hopeful that we can work together over the coming weeks and months to give the Highway Trust fund some multi-year certainty, and to do it in a bipartisan way that also closes wasteful tax loopholes and makes the tax code more fair.

“In the 21st century economy, these kinds of changes to our tax code—ones that help workers and families in a fiscally responsible way—are opportunities we can’t afford to pass up.

“We all know that reforming our tax code won’t be easy.

“The differences between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to making these changes are serious.

“But I also know that when both sides are willing to come together and make a few tough choices, we can deliver.

“I’m hopeful that we will be able to move forward on some of the proposals I’ve laid out here today.

“And I hope that going forward, we can build on them to achieve the kind of comprehensive tax reform that will offer more workers and families a fair shot, and help us build a foundation for broad-based economic growth in the future.

“I’d like to thank our witnesses again for joining us today, and turn it over to Ranking Member Senator Sessions for his remarks.”