Last Updated June 27, 2016
In June, House Republicans kicked off a three-week roll out of a policy agenda that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) says will serve as an outline for what the party will do in 2017 if they win the White House in November. The six-point agenda will serve as a blueprint for future legislative proposals on jobs and the economy, taxes, health care, national security, constitutional authority, and poverty.
House Republicans Release Tax Reform Blueprint, Includes Changes to Charitable Giving
June 27, 2016 - House Republicans released the outline of their tax reform priorities that are intended to outline their policy goals for 2017. In part, the framework calls for eliminating all deductions except the charitable and mortgage interest deductions, and replacing the basic standard deduction with a larger deduction of $24,000 for a couple, $18,000 for a single parent with a child, and $12,000 for an individual. The Blueprint promises that “The Committee on Ways and Means will develop options to ensure the tax code continues to encourage donations, while simplifying compliance and record-keeping and making the tax benefit effective and efficient.” The document estimates the new deduction would reduce the number of people who itemize their deductions to nearly 5 percent of tax filers, down from the current one-third. Consistent with past tax proposals, the Republican plan urges repeal of the federal estate tax. The outline proposes reducing the current seven individual brackets into three: 33 percent being the top rate, 25 percent, and 12 percent. Previous efforts had called for a top rate of 25 percent. The plan also proposes expanding the Child Tax Credit to $1,500, of which $1,000 would be refundable. Other than public hearings, the priorities outlined last week are not expected to see legislative action this year. Read more from the National Council of Nonprofits.
GOP’s Health Plan Would Restructure Medicaid, Medicare
June 22, 2016 - On Wednesday, House Republicans, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, released a plan for reforming health care in the United States. The health care plan is not yet in legislative form, and so some important details are not specified. Still, it’s an important outline - if Congress were to take up legislation in 2017 to roll back the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something different, this would be the starting point for drafting the legislation. The plan is far-reaching. There are major reforms in every important component of health care: the insurance marketplace for working-age individuals, employer coverage, Medicaid, and Medicare. Read more from Health Affairs.
House Republicans Unveil Poverty Plan
June 7, 2016 – Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) released the first piece of the House Republicans legislative agenda. Titled A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America, the proposal is designed to address poverty in America, and was put together by House Republican’s Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility. According to Speaker Ryan, the Task Force’s goal was to develop a bold, pro-growth agenda that will "strengthen our safety net and reform educational programs to make them more effective and accountable, help people move from welfare to work, and empower productive lives."
Task Force Chairs include Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX), Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA), Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), and Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX). The full report, as well as a summary and fact sheet, is available here. LSA is in the process of analyzing and responding to the House GOP outline; please find our summary below, and contact LSA's Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Lindsey Copeland, with any feedback or questions you may have.
LSA Analysis of House GOP Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility Agenda
On June 7, House Republicans, led by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled the first tenet of their legislative blueprint, which focused on proposals designed to reduce poverty and increase opportunity and upward mobility. The plan examines the nation's welfare, education, nutrition, and retirement systems, and recommends policy changes to each. Below, please find a summary of the legislative blueprint, which is divided into sections that mirror the report itself - Safety Net, Workforce, and a Conclusion. We will update this analysis as additional information becomes available.
Tying Welfare to Work. In part, the plan focuses on the nation’s welfare system and includes policy recommendations that “federal safety-net programs expect work-capable welfare recipients to work or prepare for work in exchange for receiving benefits. To do so, the Task Force recommends changes to programs like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Section 8 Housing.
Realigning Incentives. They also look at realigning incentives for sates and other service providers – including nonprofits - to “ensure that when someone leaves welfare for work, everyone is better off – that is, all stakeholders, starting with the recipients and ending with the taxpayers.“ Though no specific changes are mentioned, the Task Force recommends “reviewing the incentives to work, marry, and escape poverty.”
Measuring the Results. The report also focuses on program evaluation, noting in a policy recommendation that “Common sense says the federal government should fund only programs that have a track record of success. Yet the federal government frequently pays for well-intentioned programs and services that have no evidence of effectiveness—and in many cases even when the program is proven not to work at all. This not only is a waste of taxpayer dollars, but it means those seeking help aren’t getting the assistance they need. The task force believes federal dollars should no longer be spent on programs that are intended to help, but instead should be focused on those that actually achieve results.”
Fraud and Abuse. Citing its goal to “focus support on the people who need it most," the Task Force recommends encouraging “states and other providers” to adopt new technologies and streamlined administrative process “across means-tested programs to ensure taxpayer dollars are well spent and eligible recipients are well-served.” In so doing, they assert, “these welfare programs will be focused on those who truly need help.
Early Childhood. The Task Force proposes changes to the nation’s education system, in order to “Improv[e] the Skills and Knowledge of our Workforce.” In part, this includes changes to early childhood development programs, which the Task Force characterizes as being ineffective and duplicative in their current form. To improve these services, the report recommends that the federal government support research to “advance high-quality services," work to “improve coordination and reduce redundancy," and “help parents make informed decisions.”
At-Risk Youth. In an effort to recognize the unique needs of at-risk youth, the Task Force states that “Helping children reject a life of crime and violence requires more than a detention facility; helping children who are in foster care, who are homeless, or who come from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed requires more than a government program; these efforts require collaboration among parents, teachers, and community members to prevent criminal behavior and help support children who are vulnerable to or who have engaged in illegal activity, and it requires giving hope to all those children tempted to give in to despair.” To effectively do so, they recommend that federal policy “continue to recognize that youth who enter the justice system are vulnerable and need different support services than older adults” by focusing on the long-term success of these young adults, by directing resources to programs that are proven to work, and by supporting state and community efforts to address local needs and expand educational choice.
Career and Technical Education. The report highlights the role that career and technical education (CTE) can play in “empowering young Americans with the job skills necessary to become independent and productive citizens," and recommends that Congress “seize the opportunity to help Americans – young and old – develop the skills that lead to high paying jobs.”
Higher Education. In a recognition that “postsecondary education has helped countless people escape poverty," the Task Force recommends that “to help strengthen the limited yet important federal role in higher education, Congress should work to empower individuals to make informed decisions, simplify and improve student aid, promote innovation, access, and completion, and ensure strong accountability for taxpayers.”
Nutrition. Noting the link between adequate nutrition and success in the classroom, the Task Force states “students cannot learn and succeed if they are hungry or lack proper nutrition” which is why “ensuring all kids have access to nutritious meals has long been a national priority.” The Task Force then notes that “Republicans in Congress are producing reforms to federal policies that will give states, schools, and local providers the flexibility they need to provide children access to healthy meals."
Retirement Security. To “bring our retirement policies into the 21st century and empower working families," the Task Force recommends, in part, that Congress “ensure plans are well-funded and employers remain in the system, protect access to affordable retirement advice, make it easier for employers to band together to offer 401(k)s" and “reduce costly red tape."
Access to Banking Services. The Task Force notes that “Access to banking services is a critical resource for upward mobility, both for individuals and for the communities in which they live. Banking services play an important role in creating economic security and accessing credit, empowering people to transform their ideas into reality and to make long-term plans and purchases. Access to credit also helps individuals and families cushion against economic downturns or unexpected expenses.” Though they do not include any policy recommendations on this topic, the Task Force does characterize “Efforts by Washington bureaucrats” and “Washington regulations” as negatively impacting individual and community access to banking services.
In its concluding paragraphs, the Task Force reaffirms the goal of this report, which is to serve as a blueprint for future legislation, by stating “This is the beginning of a conversation. House Republicans will continue to collaborate and solicit ideas on how best to improve outcomes for lower-income Americans, and we will continue to craft policies to ensure that no matter who you are or where you come from, if you work hard and give it your all, you will succeed.”
LSA appreciates the efforts of Speaker Ryan to shine a light on the need to advance policies that reduce poverty and promote opportunity. We look forward to engaging with all Members of Congress on constructive solutions that advance our shared goals. We invite LSA members to contact LSA’s Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Lindsey Copeland, with your thoughts and reactions to the proposal, as we are in the process of crafting a formal response to the agenda.