Davis vows to fight to keep tuition break in GOP's tax-reform bill

Davis vows to fight to keep tuition break in GOP's tax-reform bill

WASHINGTON — Although he hoped to make changes to the tax-reform plan approved Thursday by the House Ways and Means Committee, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis said there will be other opportunities to revise the package before it sees a final vote, still expected to come before Christmas.

The Taylorville Republican sent a letter Wednesday to the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee urging it to reconsider its decision to eliminate a tuition tax break for university employees and their families.

The repeal, Davis said in his letter, "will eliminate a taxpayer's ability to exclude qualified tuition reductions from income and will raise the barrier of entry to college for many individuals. Colleges and universities throughout my district provide employees — as well as their spouses and dependents — with tuition reductions.

"By repealing this provision, middle-income families who rely on these reductions to obtain a college degree will be forced to pay taxes on amounts they never actually physically possess."

Davis, whose congressional district includes the University of Illinois, three other public universities, four private universities or colleges and several community college districts, said he was "cautiously optimistic" the tax break would be retained.

But it seems his plea wasn't successful in Ways and Means.

"The bill's not perfect. And we're going to do what we can through the legislative process to make it better," Davis said Thursday. "That's why we have continued to talk to the leadership, to the committee, about our issue with tuition waiver program."

There will be other opportunities to make changes, he said.

"If we're successful in the House, great. If we're not, then we'll continue to work with our senators and we'll work with the administration to try to address those issues, too," Davis said.

But he left little doubt he would support the overall tax package.

"I can support bills that may include about 80 percent of what I support and like," the congressman said. "It doesn't mean that once the bill passes I'm not going to go out the next day to address the 20 percent that I disagree with. Because now I don't have to focus on the 80 percent that was a problem before."

Asked if he thought he would vote for the final product, Davis said, "Yeah, I'm supportive of tax reform because when you look at this bill overall, it is a good bill for families in Illinois. This is one that is going to allow for families to put more money into their pockets instead of sending it to Washington. And we'll make our business climate more competitive globally."

Davis said Ways and Means had already changed a provision of the original proposal that affects private colleges and universities. It would impose a 1.4 percent excise tax on the net investment income of private schools whose endowments equal at least $100,000 per full-time student. With the change, it will effect endowments equal to $250,000 per full-time student, he said.

"We've worked to try to address those issues and right now we're down to a point where that provision, if enacted today, would only affect one of our universities," he said. "That's what the process is all about. The bill is not going to remain the same before we vote on it next week."

Davis also joined with 25 other Republicans in a letter requesting the Ways and Means Committee to preserve an adoption tax credit.

Ashley Phelps, the congressman's spokeswoman, said the committee acted Thursday afternoon to preserve it.

"Our first duty in Congress is to put policies in place that protect the most vulnerable in our society, and children in need of a loving family certainly meet that criteria," said the letter from the GOP congressmen to Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady. "We are grateful for your dedication to tax reform and the United States will forever be indebted to the great contributions you have made in seeking the welfare of its citizens.

"However, the Adoption Tax Credit has enormous symbolic, practical and humanitarian meaning and purpose. Eliminating it is not who we are as Republicans."

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