By Ryan Ekvall - Wisconsin Reporter, Watchdog.org
JANESVILLE – While moviegoers may flock to the latest installment of the “Iron Man” franchise or the obligatory Will Smith flick this summer, Rep. Paul Ryan on Monday gave a preview of the legislative blockbusters coming soon to a Congress near you.
The Janesville Republican and former vice presidential candidate told a town hall meeting of some 75 hometown constituents that, “budget reform, pro-growth tax reform and immigration reform” will be “front and center on the front burner of Congress” this summer.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, held a town hall listening session in his hometown Monday afternoon.
Immigration reform, as envisioned by Ryan and in the works in the House, would start with border security and enforcement, and then an E-Verify program, where employers check government records with applicant data and then report mismatches to the federal government.
Civil libertarians have argued that a mandatory E-Verify program could creep beyond its stated mission.
“Nationwide, E-Verify would create a virtual national ID and would lay the groundwork for a possible biometric national ID system, thereby imposing significant privacy and civil liberties costs on all Americans, including lawful workers, businesses, and taxpayers,” the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a statement for a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing.
Ryan said immigration reform was pro-growth for the U.S. economy and its aging citizenry.
“You have to address the need of future flow of immigration,” he said, citing needs on Wisconsin dairy farms and seasonal work at water park capital, Wisconsin Dells.
Ryan said Congress would decide the “number of visas for a number of people in various immigration categories,” such as science visas, math visas, carpentry visas and agricultural visas.
The congressman said deportation of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States would be impossible. Instead, he said individuals residing in the U.S. illegally would face a probationary period where they would pay a fine and back taxes, learn English and U.S. civics, and “go to the back of the line” for legal residency.
He said these are “elements of a bipartisan agreement to fix immigration once and for all.”
Last week, The Chicago Sun Times reported Ryan campaigned with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, to promote immigration reform.
The chairman of the House’s Committee on the Budget, widely known as a “fiscal hawk,” touted his budget plan again in Janesville, where he repeated the Republican mantra that Washington “has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”
“We’re so far apart right now. (The Senate) want(s) massive tax and spending increases. We don’t want to raise taxes, we want to cut spending,” Ryan said of the Republican-led House.
In addition to cutting federal spending, or at least the projected growth rate of future spending, Ryan emphasized tax reform as a priority.
“Our current tax code is essentially a system of decades of decades worth of special interest groups putting special privileges in the tax system that benefit the few at the expense of higher tax rates for the many,” Ryan said.
He said overall tax rates should be lowered and loopholes – certain credits and deductions – should be removed from the tax code.
“You have so many different loopholes in the tax code that are benefited by the higher income individuals, largest corporations, and as a result everybody pays higher taxes. The problem is those who pay those higher tax rates are disproportionately the job creators in our country, like small businesses,” he said.
Ryan said he’s not opposed to all new taxes, however, namely one being lobbied hard by well-connected special interests.
“To me, I think the concept is right,” the Janesville Republican said of the proposed Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow state tax collectors the ability to compel out-of-state online and catalog retailers to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction.
Ryan says the legislation is a fairness issue.
“It’s only fair that the local brick-and-mortar retailer be treated the same as the big-box online sales company out of state,” he said. “The key is this can’t be a slippery slope used to tax other things. This can’t be a slippery slope to do other things, to make sure that we’re just having fairness for retailers in purchasing online sales.”
The Marketplace Fairness Act would not raise federal revenue.
Here’s how it would work: If a Wisconsin resident purchases a “That 70s Show” poster from an online retailer in New Hampshire, that ‘e-tailer’ will be required to collect and remit Wisconsin sales taxes in the exchange – even though New Hampshire doesn’t impose a sales tax.
Ryan finds himself on the opposite side of Grover Norquist-led Americans for Tax Reform and the National Taxpayers Union on this issue.
The National Review editors, vehemently opposed to the Marketplace Fairness Act, recently had this to say about the legislation:
“State and local governments are engaged in an unseemly gold rush, pushing for a new Internet sales-tax regime that would empower them to wring revenues from businesses and individuals far outside their jurisdictions. They seek to overturn the foundational American presumption against taxation without representation, and they do so abetted by parasitical business interests that seek to use the tax code to hobble their more nimble online competitors. When the taxman and the National Retail Federation are on the same side of an issue, there is mischief afoot,” the opinion piece asserts.
Looking at the major lobbyists behind the tax you’ll find a partnership of strange bedfellows, linking big business, big labor and the state – everyone from Dick’s Sporting Goods, Best Buy, Walmart, AFL-CIO, AFCSME, American Federation of Teachers, to the National Governors Association, Government Finance Officers Association, and the National Conference of State Legislators.