'Are you better off now?' Hultgren asks audience about tax cuts. 'No,' most say.
Congressman Randy Hultgren stood firm in his support for the federal tax overhaul despite fervent booing from more than 150 constituents in a forum at the McHenry County Administrative Building Monday night.
Constituents asked why the 14th District congressman from Plano voted "to give tax cuts to the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us." The loaded question referred to a vote Hultgren cast last November when the House passed its version with a 227-205 vote. Hultgren also supported the amended version compromised with the Senate in a 224-201 vote in December.
Hultgren told the audience he's not seeing an unbalanced benefit of the cuts flooding to the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. The act helped transform the No. 1 issue when Hultgren first won the seat in 2010, unemployment, into a positive, he said.
"I'm so encouraged by the growth we're seeing," Hultgren said. "I see so many people who are working. Anything we can do to grow this economy is really important."
The forum was part of a week of question-and-answer sessions with Hultgren throughout the 14th District.
Hultgren said people he's met with are seeing an average annual income increase of $1,600 per family. The audience responded he must be meeting with the wrong people. So Hultgren took an impromptu poll.
"Are you better off now than you were two to four years ago?" He asked.
"No," responded most of the crowd.
Hultgren persisted in his view.
"Families are seeing growth and opportunity," he said. "I will say that until the very end."
A follow-up question asked why workers aren't seeing the tax cuts translate into their own paychecks and when constituents should expect to see a financial benefit.
"They ought to see more (money) right now," Hultgren said. "They ought to see a reduction in their withholding. We all benefit when the economy is growing. Jobs are good for people. If you haven't seen it yet, I'm surprised. I believe you will see it."
Count Hultgren's Democratic challenger, Lauren Underwood of Naperville, among those who won't be surprised if voters don't see a benefit come time for the November election. Underwood, as a constituent, applied to attend Hultgren's forums this week. She was not at Monday's installment. But Underwood issued a contrasting view of the tax cuts shortly after Hultgren's votes in casting the plan as a "middle-class tax hike."
"Our tax system already overburdens middle-class families with paying more than their fair share of taxes and needs to be fixed," Underwood said in a statement on her website. "We need real tax reform that cuts taxes for middle-class families and small businesses so we can grow the economy, create jobs and reduce the debt. Today's GOP tax plan does the opposite: massively increases the debt to cut taxes for the rich and big corporations, leaving future generations to pay the bill."
The overhaul brought the largest one-time reduction in the corporate tax rate in U.S. history, from 35 percent down to 21 percent. The bill also lowers taxes for the vast majority of Americans, as well as small-business owners -- at least until those cuts expire after eight years.
In an interview after the forum, Hultgren said the tax cuts were not perfect legislation, but he believes the overall impact has been measurably positive throughout the broader economy. But there are several aspects of the law he'd like to change, he said.
For one, Hultgren supports making the new individual tax rates permanent. Second, he said he pushed for wording in the original House version that would have facilitated and advanced a refunding system for local government bonds.
Hultgren said his wording would have allowed municipalities, when an opportunity to pay off a bond arises, to replace it with a new bond. He said such a program is key to helping local governments stave off tax increases.
The next forum is at noon Wednesday at the Warrenville VFW Hall.
The sprawling 14th Congressional District includes parts of DuPage, Kane, McHenry and Lake counties.