News Story

Former Congressman Dave Camp on Where Tax Reform is Heading in D.C.

An interview with the previous House Ways and Means Committee chairman

Dave Camp is a retired congressman from Midland, Michigan, and the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. In 2014, he released a major tax reform package which died in Congress. Michigan Capitol Confidential interviewed him about the current discussions in Washington and what tax reform might be coming. The interview has been condensed.

How is Congress doing when it comes to the tax reform issue?

“Well, obviously, it’s an incredibly complex thing. But it’s good that the [Trump] administration is fully engaged with the leaders of the House and Senate. It looks like they have an agreement on the scope of reform and that’s a positive development. Hopefully we’ll be getting some more details next week, but I think it’s progressing.”

How is what the Congress is debating now similar or different from what you proposed?

“In terms of similarities, it mostly is on the individual side. They seem to be talking about doubling deductions and collapsing the number of brackets. Congress is really trying to simplify, especially when it comes to the amount of time and hours which has become much worse over the years. The current proposals are able to use dynamic, rather than static, scoring which looks at economic growth caused by tax reform. That growth projection means rates can be lowered further as opposed to other trade-offs.

“On the corporate side, they want to go a little lower than I was able to. But the moves to a more modernized international tax system and the repatriation of overseas money are similar. There are similar goals in terms of making us more competitive with more growth and higher incomes, fixing a broken tax system and creating opportunity for everyone.”

What did you learn from putting out your proposal?

“When I started on this, President Obama was in office and Democrats controlled the Senate. So I was trying to address policy wins for members of both parties. …I didn’t expect that my bill was necessarily going to be signed as is, but I was working [with Democrats]. There was also a bill coming out of the Senate at the time from Max Baucus (former Democratic senator from Montana) that was very different.”

What are the most important principles, in your mind, when it comes to tax reform?

“Lower the tax burden and simplify the tax code. This is especially important when it comes to the amount of time it takes to be in compliance [with the law]. By doing that, we can create the type of growth, jobs and higher incomes that we haven’t seen in the last decade.”

What should be done about discretionary and non-discretionary spending?

“What you’re seeing now is that more than half the budget is ‘mandatory’ or entitlement programs or things the Congress doesn’t vote on every year. That trend is still a concern. …This isn’t directly related to tax reform, but if we get that right, it can mean more growth. And when individuals are doing better, they’re paying more taxes, revenue is increasing, they’re relying less on government programs, and the fiscal outlook of the country will improve.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.