e-News 1/26/18

e-News 1/26/18

  • Keeping Government Open, Extending Children’s Health Insurance
  • “The Pentagon’s Fading Readiness”
  • Marriott’s pitiful apology to China
  • Fairness for New Jersey Taxpayers
  • Salute: Morris County’s Finest in Puerto Rico


Keeping Government Open, Extending Children’s Health Insurance

The finger-pointing and “blame game” from last weekend’s shutdown of the federal government continued this week.  Republicans said Democrats shut down the government.  Democrats said Republicans were responsible. 

As Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, I have my own views about the motives of those who voted “no” on my legislation to fund the government.  However, the lesson I hope everyone takes away from this episode is that we should never condone an interruption of essential federal services.  Among its many negative effects, a shutdown, among other negative results, costs more money than it “saves,” harms those who rely on the federal government for assistance and forces members of our armed forces and federal security personnel to work without pay. 

The shutdown came to an end when the House and Senate have final approval to legislation very similar to a bill I introduced (H.J.Res 25) to maintain current funding for federal operations. This fourth Continuing Resolution (CR) is a stop-gap measure that will extend government funding through early February.  

But this bill was not a simple CR. In addition, among its several provisions, the measure extended the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years and suspended for two years the imposition of the medical device excise tax under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

It is critically important that we provided resources for our children’s health. Families across the nation rely on the CHIP to help sick children and pregnant mothers to ensure healthy and happy futures. This legislation extended this important program for another six years.

The 2.3 percent tax on medical devices which took effect back on January 1 may sound minimal, but it adds to the costs that every hospital, rehabilitation facility and doctor must charge patients.  Many people depend on medical devices to keep them alive or living independently every day.  It was one of the most punitive taxes enacted under the ACA.

H.J. Res 25 also included funding to advance U.S. missile defense systems in light of the developing threat from North Korea.

My hope is that House and Senate Leadership and the White House can reach consensus quickly on an overall budget agreement, so that essential Appropriations work on all 12 government funding bills can be completed.  We are now four months into the 2018 Fiscal Year, and Congress must act as soon as possible to ensure that proper, year-long funding for our national defense and other critical federal programs is enacted.

You can learn more about H.J. Res 125 here.

Worth a Read: Abha Bhattarai and Steven Mufson’s article“Marriott, Others Bow to China to Protect their Business Interests” in the Washington Post.  Read it here.

“The Pentagon’s Fading Readiness." The first priority in a budget deal should be more money for defense.”  Read the Wall Street Journal editorial here.

Fairness for New Jersey Taxpayers

As readers of this eNews are aware, I voted in December against H.R. 1 because it eliminated the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT).  This long-standing deduction has been used by many New Jersey families to lessen their federal tax burden. 

The President signed H.R. 1 into law on December 22, 2017.  The law clearly prohibits individuals from deducting the prepayment of future state and local income taxes, but does not mention whether or not the prepayment of state and local property taxes would be deductible.  This led many individuals, in good faith and based on existing law, to line up to prepay their 2018 property taxes and save their families money.

However, on December 27, after the tax bill was signed into law, the IRS issued guidance on pre-paying 2018 state and local property taxes in 2017, which may be tax deductible and not subject to the new $10,000 cap. The guidance dictated that that those who paid property taxes early will be able to claim the deduction, but only if the taxes were assessed, billed and paid in 2017. However, under the guidance, pre-payment of anticipated property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018 are not deductible in 2017. This had led to confusion by taxpayers whose are unsure if all or a portion of their payments made at the end of the year will be considered deductible.

To correct this additional unfairness, I have cosponsored legislation (H.R. 4803) to allow taxpayers to deduct their entire 2018 property tax prepayments from their 2017 income tax returns.   The IRS guidance is not fair and this legislation, introduced by my New Jersey colleague Rep. Leonard Lance (NJ-12), instructs the IRS to allow full deductibility to protect New Jersey taxpayers. 

Learn more about H.R. 4803 here.

Salute: To four Morris County police officers who volunteered in October to participate in Operation NJ Pride to assist citizens of Puerto Rico, devastated in September by Hurricane Maria. Denville Police Officer Kristian Sandman, Denville Officer Peter F. Grawehr, Mountain Lakes Cpl. Samuel Trimble and Morris Township Officer Diego Pinheiro spent two weeks on the island helping local police provide security in storm-devastated areas.  Read Peggy Wright’s story in the Morris County Daily Record here.

I also salute the many doctors, nurses, National Guardsmen and other federal, state and municipal employees, private citizens and faith-based groups who have contributed to Puerto Rico’s recovery.

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