By Patrick Richardson
Republican House Member Lynn Jenkins was in Baxter Springs for a listening tour, and taxes and the current scandals in Washington were some of the major topics of conversation.
"We were way in the minority my first term, so every day our opinions were not needed or wanted and we kinda got run over," Jenkins said. "There is sort of a realization that has set in now that we're stuck with each other and we might as well get something done. It might not be everything the American people hoped for but it's progress."
She said her committee, the powerful House Ways and Means Committee which is in charge of taxation issues, is working on tax reform, particularly corporate taxes.
"We worked all last year setting the table for tax reform because I think we can all agree our tax system is broken," she said. "It's too complex, it's too costly to comply with. We're afraid the IRS is going to penalize us and take half of what we have because we made a mistake.
"Whatever we do, republicans and democrats alike agree it's got to be revenue neutral.
Jenkins said the corporate tax rates are holding back the economy.
"What's driving the train is that we are no longer competitive internationally because we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world," she said. "No one should want to do business here if they have a choice because they can go somewhere else and pay half what they're paying here, so jobs are fleeing.
"This is the biggest policy issue we could tackle to improve our economy and get people back to work."
Jenkins said House Republcians want to lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, "which would put us in the middle of the pack internationally.
"Right now we're the only nation that taxes worldwide income," she said. "Everyone else taxes only the income earned on their soil. So we would move to that so we could compete with everyone else.
"We (also) need to deal with the repatriation issue. We hear about dollars trapped offshore and no one will bring them home because they can't afford to pay the 35 percent tax. So we're talking about having all those dollars trapped offshore be taxed at a one-time rate and then they're free to come home and be invested. You carry those through domestically so you have a 25 percent rate for everybody.
Individual tax rates are also on the table and the Republican controlled-house is looking at a much flatter tax system.
"On the individual rates what we're looking at is a two-rate system -- 25 percent on the top and a 10 percent rate for the low to moderate income people," she said. "The way you pay for taking these rates down is you eliminate the loopholes that were put in by people who can afford a tax lobbyist to walk the halls of Congress.
Jenkins said they hope to have a bill within the next two years that can pass both houses.
"I'ts been over 26 years since we last did tax reform and every day since then members of Congress have mucked up the tax system by putting things back in," she said. "Our goal is to clean it up again and maybe put some stopgaps in there to make it more difficult to muck it up again."
The problem, she said, is that prior to the breaking scandals her staffers were working full time on legislation, but now many are taking depositions.
However, while she noted public policy is important, Congress also has an oversight responsibility.
"We had people in the IRS who were targeting people based solely on their political beliefs," she said. "This is un-American it's unacceptable and we have to get to the bottom of how far up the chain did the wink and the nod come."
An additional issue making it difficult to find consensus, she said, is that the two parties simply do not have the same world view.
"We see the world through totally different lenses right now, the two parties really do," Jenkins said. "On our side of the aisle we think part of the problem that we have four scandals right now is that government is too big, to unruly and it's out of control and no one is in charge.
"If we could just get the heck out of the way ... we'd all be happier, we'd all be more prosperous, the economy would be rocking and rolling. And then there are others who think all we need to do is grow the government bigger and we would be cooking then.
"We just see things so much different and that common ground is hard to find."