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Are Sunset Provisions The Shell Game of Congressional Budgeting?

by Countable | 11.29.17

What’s the story?

Like many pieces of legislation with huge budgetary implications, the GOP tax reform bill includes a host of sunset provisions. Sunset provisions end certain aspects of legislation after a certain date, usually 5 - 10 years in the future, unless additional legislative action is taken.

Now you see it! Now you don’t!

By including sunset provisions in major bills, lawmakers can give stakeholders what they want while still staying within budget boundaries. But what gets sunset and what doesn’t is worth paying attention to, since it can affect the long term consequences of legislation.

Why does it matter?

Technically, a sunset provision can be applied to any aspect of any type of legislation, ending that aspect of the legislation after a certain date. The Patriot Act, for instance, originally contained sunset provisions that ended in 2005. Extensions were approved until 2006, then again in 2010.

In terms of the current tax reform bill, sunset provisions would allow the legislation to not increase the federal deficit by more than $1.5 trillion in the first 10 years. This means the bill could pass in the Senate with a simple majority vote.

This deficit requirement is part of the Byrd Rule, and falls under the larger umbrella of "budget reconciliation".

So, how does the current GOP tax reform plan conform to the Byrd Rule, while still providing individual and corporate tax cuts? It sunsets the individual tax cuts, leaving the business tax cuts permanent.

What this means is that, unless additional legislation is passed at some point down the road, the tax cuts enjoyed by individuals and families under the GOP plan would go away in 5-10 years, returning to current rates. But, other provisions, like business tax cuts and the elimination of the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act, would remain permanently.

Based on estimates reported by the Joint Committee on Taxation, by 2027 individuals making less than $75,000 will be paying more in taxes because the tax cuts in the current GOP plan will sunset.

Estimates from the CBO addressed the potential effect of the repeal of the individual health insurance mandate, which makes the projection of effects worse. According to their report, non-group premiums would rise by 10% and 13 million more people would be without health insurance by 2027.

Republican leaders dispute both analyses, saying that including healthcare costs and subsidies is wrong because buying insurance is a choice. Additionally, they argue that Congress regularly votes to extend expiring tax cuts at the end of every year, so the sunsets are not a problem.

What do you think?

Do sunset provisions matter to you when contemplating support for major legislation? Is short term gain more important than potential long term loss? Do you trust that Congress will step up and make some provisions on individual taxes permanent to mitigate the effects of the plan on middle to low income individuals, or are they just passing the buck to a future set of leaders?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Casino.org )

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(24)
  • Donna
    11/29/2017
    ···

    As a citizen currently battling cancer, health insurance is NOT a choice and I resent any member of Congress proclaiming otherwise since they get their health insurance paid for by people like me. I lived through the Reagan tax cuts and saw how great trickle-down economics works. I lost my job, had my wages cut by several corporations and spent years surviving on a flat salary as the price of everything around me went up. I have a college degree. I was a professional working in the information technology field and I struggled even as the group who will now benefit the most from this bill got richer and richer. This Congress should stop the lying and the pandering to their big-money donors. Most of them either inherited their money or made it by through the efforts of the hard-working lower and middle class. Everyday, this Congress comes to work and puts forth an agenda focused on keeping the 1% happy so they will take phone calls and continue to contribute to corrupt, shameful and immoral campaigns. Allowing the changes in the code for individuals to sunset while maintaining the obscene gifts to corporations is just another example of how money runs this country. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the government of the US to be of the people, by the people and for the people during his powerful Gettysburg Address. Nowhere in our history did any of our leaders proclaim our government to be of the rich, by the lobbyists and for the donors. Do any of our representatives wonder why that is? I doubt it.

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  • Mike
    11/30/2017
    ···

    I’ve said this before and will say it again. We do not have Represented Government in this country. Our Congressmen and certainly our current President represent only the donors. Cut that money we would have a whole different ruling class. I say there should be a representative from every income bracket in Congress representing their respective constituents. We need to have total transparency as well. Let’s have mandatory psychiatric exams yearly for people over 65 years of age. Cognitive tests as well. This country is a mess and under Trump we are stepping back into the 1930’s. We are close to 29. The stock market has got to be at an artificially high level.

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  • Karen
    11/30/2017
    ···

    This is what they are doing to dismantle social security and Medicare. The "donor class" want chattel so they can become richer and richer. The early 20th century is where we are headed. Working children, elderly and sick will be the new norm. Technology will take all jobs and what will be left will be low paying, labor intensive and the top class will rule. Shell game is an innocuous statement. This is nothing short of the end of the USA and our great democracy!

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  • RadicalModerate
    11/29/2017
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    John Katko. Donald Trump. Roy Moore. The use of the sunset provision in the GOP tax plan in regards to cuts for the middle class, is a violation of the spirit of the provision. Sun set is a protection against populist uprisings enacting long term changes to law books. The GOP is using it as a hot potato, and in the interests of their wealthy campaign donors.

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  • John
    11/29/2017
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    I urge you to oppose sunset provisions for individual taxpayer tax cuts if corporate tax rates are made permanent. This is blatantly unfair.

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  • Robert
    11/29/2017
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    The Republicans will pass this at any cost to the American people because they have already spent the money of those who will benefit from this tax bill. The American people need to send a message to the politicians of this country in all positions and all parties, do not vote for an incumbent. this is the only method that the American people have to make a change. It is well past time to flush the toilet!!!

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  • Denise
    11/30/2017
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    The sunset provision is just part of the Republican scammers bag of tools to deceive Americans as to what they are really doing. They are bought and paid for by the wealthy and corporations. This Tax Scam bill will be the end of America as we know it! We are headed for a world of hurt...

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  • Shari
    11/30/2017
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    Why are you making cuts for lower income earners sunset but cuts for wealthy permanent?

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  • Rebecca
    11/29/2017
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    Sunset provisions in the GOP tax bill are a criminally disingenuous shell game with America’s future on the line. Sunset provisions for middle class tax cuts are how the GOP attempts to convince us that the deficit won’t explode. But at the same time, they insist that the middle class tax cuts will be permanent, just like the ones for oligarchs and corporations. It doesn’t work both ways! Kill this garbage tax plan!!!

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  • Gayle
    11/30/2017
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    The day is near where the corps & 1% no longer have to use these bait and switch tactics because they will be the entire government & will have cut out the "middleman," so-called representative. The one bright spot is knowing that the person next to you in the scratching line used to be one of the scum, who have been doomed and dumped just like they doomed & dumped us. Can you say "oligarchy"?

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  • NoHedges
    11/30/2017
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    Any legislation that is deemed in clear opposition against the constitution can be overturned. 🔵And, hopefully with Countable help, it won’t take 5-10 years to do so. 🔥Even Supreme Court Justices can be removed so long as their actions can be proven to be amoral.

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  • Gail
    11/30/2017
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    Unfortunately, counter to the great Republicans and Republican Party I once knew, the party now stands for being nothing itself but a shell game of corporate greed wrapped in Christmas paper. It is truly disgusting. Robbing our children. Shame on you!

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  • Sally
    12/01/2017
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    I oppose the proposed tax reforms that lower corporate tax rates permanently, but allow individual tax rates to increase in a matter of years - sunset legislation. By 2025 people making less than $75,000 a year will be paying a great deal more tax than expected. I oppose eliminating the ACA mandates. I continue to read that the Congressional Budget Office does not report favorably about this tax reform bill in terms of our national debt. With changes to "The Bill" being constantly made, how will anyone really know what they are voting for. Does the GOP simply want pass something before the end of Trump's first year in office even if they truly do not understanding the ramifications of this bill.

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  • Sharyl
    11/29/2017
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    Enough with the budget games. Put out a straight budget then remain within the limits unless a true disaster requires additional funding

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  • GatewayJohn
    11/30/2017
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    Sunset is a useful concept in many cases but not often so when there a serious budgetary effects

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  • Jon
    11/29/2017
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    Larry Summers, a Professor Emeritus of Harvard University, recently reviewed the proposed tax plans and changes proposed for health care by our House & Senate......what he found was amazing! 1. People will die by the millions with no health care, 2. Corporations already have plenty of cash (no need to give them more! 3. There will no longer be care for our aging society in years to come...4. The conclusions made by the Republicans about these bills is a total lie and absurd.....5. There is no plus to their plan, only bad news for us and billions to the wealthy, so again all of the rhetoric out of Trump is a lie!!!! Impeach the liar!

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  • Dave
    11/29/2017
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    A shell game is all the GOP knows and deficit spending. They talk, not even a great storyline about Trickle down economics that never worked and yet they still push it like it did. Also about the Debt ceiling. What ever drugs they are on, they need to get off. I did not know there were so many babbling idiots in one group!

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  • S
    11/30/2017
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    They dispute facts. Alternative facts like Conway. Like trump. Ignore it if it doesn’t fit and then lie about it and keep lying though there is incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. Ignore experts’ opinions. As to they often vote to extend sunset provisions. No they don’t. They let bills lapse. Remember CHIP? Oh, we’re going to take care of that. Remember DACA? They don’t have anything to worry about. It goes on and on. Congress will not under any circumstances extend tax breaks to individuals, because this is just a panacea and they’ll live with it reluctantly until it can be eliminated. The deficit by that time will be so high that they will have to make us all pay more. They will want us to pay more. The wealthy won’t be effected. Corporations and their executives and shareholders won’t be effected. But Mom and Pop and Junior and everybody else will be critically impacted. Will they care? Nope. Become a mega donor and watch how quickly they’ll care.

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  • Dan
    11/29/2017
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    No sunset provisions that hurt middle class tax payers down the road while wealthy taxpayers benefit early on.

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  • Azrael
    11/29/2017
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    Smoke and mirrors Has everyone turned into little trump’s ?

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