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VP Pence touts GOP tax overhaul in Indiana

Associated Press

Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that a GOP effort to overhaul the U.S. tax code for the first time in three decades is neither a Republican or a Democrat issue, but a "jobs issue."

The former Indiana governor and congressman made the remarks in his home state, at a suburban Indianapolis business. It comes as the White House seeks to lure support from vulnerable Democrats seeking re-election in Republican states, including Democratic Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly.

"Our biggest resource is our people, and the right kind of tax cuts will make it possible for American businesses to invest more in the American people," Pence said.

The tax overhaul has been pitched by Republicans and President Donald Trump as way to rev the economy. But others are skeptical it will make much of a difference for the vast majority of people — and could cost some more.

Earlier Thursday, the Senate released its own version of the plan, while the House Ways and Means Committee approved its own version of the legislation.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll taken last month found that people by large margins believe the Trump-backed tax plan helps wealthy people and corporations. Just over four in 10 in the poll said they believe that it helps middle-income individuals and families, slightly more than the number who thinks it hurts them.

"In Indiana, the top 1 percent of earners are going to get 46 percent, or so, of tax cuts," said Gregory Shufeldt, an assistant professor of political science at Butler University, who has reviewed Trump's outline of the plan. "For the vast majority of Indiana residents, the benefits they might see from this type of policy would be about $8 per week."

Pence painted a considerably rosier picture Thursday, characterizing it as a "middle class miracle" focused on "working families."

Either way, Shufeldt said it was smart politics for Republicans, who have struggled to get much done in Washington, despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House. By bringing the issue front and center in Indiana, it also ups the pressure on Donnelly.

"Even if this doesn't move Sen. Donnelly's vote, it's starting to prime the discussion for next November," Shufeldt said, alluding to midterm elections.

In recent months, Pence and Trump have both visited the state, alternately attempting to woo and coerce Donnelly into backing tax legislation. It's a state's where Trump won by almost 20 points.

Pence namechecked Donnelly in his speech, telling the crowd that the state "needs to count on Sen. Joe Donnelly to vote for tax relief."

Donnelly, meanwhile, has publicly brushed off the pressure tactics, while saying that he is open to working with Republicans.

"As I have said, tax reform should create jobs, protect jobs, invest in American workers, and benefit middle class families," Donnelly said in a statement, while pledging to "carefully review the proposals."

At the event, Pence and Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta heard from a handful of local business owners who said lowering their taxes would enable their companies to expand, invest in more equipment, hire new employees or increase wages.

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