Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., confirmed Thursday he’s thinking small. And that’s not a bad thing.
The chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee said he’s still hopeful that a package of fixes to the U.S. tax code is doable over the summer, a timetable he set in February assuming after that point presidential electoral politics will cloud everything.
“We realize it will be a limited tax reform. It won’t be a big, comprehensive across-the-board (revamp) because we have Obama,” Ryan told reporters at a breakfast held by the Christian Science Monitor. “We see tax reform – full and comprehensive tax reform – as a 2017 project. But a down payment on the project in 2015 is very possible. And it’s also part of fixing our international (tax) rules and financing the Highway Trust Fund.”
Congress faces a May 31 deadline for replenishing the highway trust fund and Republicans now in control of both chambers are against raising the federal gas tax, even though it’s been years since that happened. Ryan said an extension is likely as lawmakers search for ways to boost highway spending while not boosting overall spending.
President Barack Obama has said in principle he’s open to a deal on corporate taxes. Ryan hopes for a revamp that lowers the overall corporate rate top 25 percent while broadening the base on which taxes are collected. He categorically ruled out something last tried under the Bush administration to bring back some of the trillions of dollars of overseas profits parked abroad by U.S. corporations.
“We will not do a (tax) holiday,” the chairman said emphatically, saying an overhaul is necessary because the higher corporate rate has driven U.S. corporations to headquarter abroad or merge with smaller foreign entities. That provides tax savings and is a controversial practice called tax inversions. Ryan called the practice of inversions “a concern to us,” but did not support president’s plan of bringing back some of the foreign profits at a discounted rate and applying the windfall for infrastructure improvements.
Ryan vowed to avoid a repeat of last year, when tax measures that are renewed annually didn’t actually happen until December, creating uncertainty for companies that rely on tax breaks for research and development and writing off some of their big purchases or investments.
“That was ridiculous,” he said, promising it won’t happen under his chairmanship.
A vice presidential candidate in 2012, Ryan said his children are now 10, 11 and 13 and that he has no desire to throw his hat into the crowded 2016 presidential sweepstakes.
“I’m a policy person, so I don’t have to be ‘the guy,’” said the chairman.