HORSEHEADS -- Hundreds of people turned out to Rep. Tom Reed’s town hall at the American Legion in Horseheads Monday evening and expressed anger and lack of trust regarding the GOP’s tax reform bill. It was one of Reed’s largest town halls in recent memory.
Reed, R-Corning, spent the town hall fielding questions about tax reform, clarifying his positions and attempting to illustrate how his constituents could benefit from the bill.
The crowd pushed back throughout, arguing the bill was designed to benefit corporations and wealthy citizens, would hurt middle class residents by eliminating certain entitlements and deductions, and questioned why the bill is being hurried through Congress so quickly.
The town hall started tense after Reed began by telling the crowd he anticipates the bill will be signed into law by the end of the year.
“I’m very comfortable in telling you, that what we will see here in the 23rd Congressional District, is a significant tax reduction for the majority of people,” Reed said.
His statements were met with a chorus of laughs and boos.
Reed took it in stride as he attempted to explain his reasoning.
“For the typical family, we are looking at $1,600 for a family of four based on what we are doing, or a family with the average salary of $42,000 in the district,” he said. “That’s $1,600, based on all of the calculations, based on the new tax brackets, the new tax rates … as well as the tax credit for individuals.”
The crowd wasn’t having it. Many of them balked, believing these figures, and others, are misleading and don’t compensate for other added expenses.
For one woman, she said it was her health insurance costs that will increase.
“My premiums are going to go to what they used to be before the Affordable Healthcare Act,” she said to Reed.
Deliberations continued for the next hour as various constituents asked questions and gave statements, sometimes in an off-putting, sarcastic, or confronting tone.
“I want to know, how many people here are either millionaires or billionaires?” One man asked the crowd. “Because you guys are going to make out like bandits.”
“If you have an average income of $60,000, and you get a $1,600 tax break … $60,000 a year is $5,000 a month. That equates to a tax break of about 2.2 percent. $100 a month, out of $5000 of income is two percent. What’s the tax break going to be for corporations, and what’s the tax break going to be for the one-percent?”
Several constituents talked about why they were upset about tax reform at the end of the town hall.
“He’s the one that’s telling us one thing he thinks we want to hear, when everybody else… is saying the opposite thing,” said Horseheads resident AJ Stow.
“It is absolutely going to widen the divide between the corporate billionaires and those of us who are hardworking middleclass people,” said Dianne Trickey-Rokenbrod of Hornell, who said she's a Republican.
John Benson of Hornby is concerned about how quickly the bill is moving through Congress.
“There is no time for people to digest this thing,” he said.
Reed said he understands the concerns of the constituents that came out Tuesday. He assured that people throughout the district are going to save money as a result of the tax reform bill.
“Obviously we had a very passionate crowd today,” Reed said. “Obviously a representation of some folks on the hard left that were very passionate in their beliefs. But I totally respect and I can empathize with them.”
“Obviously when we deal with tax reform, it’s very personal; we’re talking about tax code, we’re talking about money,” he added. “And what we wanted to do is hopefully demonstrate, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, but at the end of the day I am 100 percent convinced, that when we get through tax reform, hardworking people are going to benefit.”
The tax reform legislation cleared the House recently and is up for deliberation in the Senate.