U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke about how the Democrats’ reckless tax-and-spending spree will hurt rural Americans and middle-class families in South Dakota. Thune vowed to do everything he can to protect South Dakotans from Democrats’ out-of-touch, socialist fantasies.
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Thune’s remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, there are a few quote-unquote “winners” under Democrats’ $3.5 trillion tax-and-spending spree.
“Unions, for example.
“And electric vehicle manufacturers.
“But there are a lot more losers.
“Like middle-class families, who will have to stretch their paychecks to cover higher inflation and higher energy bills.
“Workers, who will see jobs and opportunities shrink.
“And farmers and ranchers.
“Mr. President, agriculture is the lifeblood of my home state of South Dakota, and so ag issues are pretty much always on my mind.
“And I am deeply concerned by what Democrats’ tax-and-spending spree will mean for South Dakota farmers.
“For starters, I’m worried that Democrats’ bill could mean the end of some family farms thanks to the bill’s expansion of the death tax.
“Mr. President, I’ve long crusaded against the death tax.
“Death should not be a taxable event.
“And there should be limits on how many times the government can tax the same money.
“But I get particularly fired up when talking about the death tax when it comes to farmers and ranchers.
“Because the death tax can threaten the existence of family farms and ranches.
“Because farming and ranching are often cash-poor operations.
“Farmers’ and ranchers’ money is tied up in their land, not the bank.
“So a farmer could have land worth as much as several million dollars, and still struggle to break even in years where the harvest has been poor.
“Then when that same farmer dies, the IRS will come in demanding a substantial portion of his estate, but since most of his money is tied up in the land, there’s a good chance that the family will not have enough money in the bank to pay the IRS.
“And so they’ll have to start selling off land – the lifeblood of their farming operation.
“Give it a couple generations, and the death tax can drive a family farm right out of existence.
“Mr. President, I am proud that the tax reform bill we passed in 2017 included death tax relief.
“We successfully doubled the estate tax exemption, which lifted the specter of the death tax for most farmers and ranchers and helped reduce the need for costly estate planning efforts to try to keep the farm or ranch in the family.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to make this relief permanent, which is why I’ve continued to push for eliminating the death tax.
“But at least family farms and ranches were set to have relief through 2025.
“Democrats are set to return the death tax exemption to its pre-Tax Cuts and Jobs Act level starting in January.
“Which means that more family farms and ranches will once again be in the tax’s crosshairs.
“Mr. President, as I said, death should not be a taxable event.
“The IRS should not be coming in at the same time as the undertaker.
“And the government should not be in the business of shuttering family farms and family businesses.
“But thanks to Democrats’ tax-and-spending spree, a lot of farmers are going to have to start worrying about whether they’ll be able to hand their farm on to their children – or whether a government tax bill will mean the end of an enterprise their family has cultivated for generations.
“The icing on the cake, of course, is that at the same time Democrats are planning to expand a tax that threatens family farms, they’re also planning to include tax relief for their millionaire contributors in blue states.
“Despite the fact that Democrats are scrambling for money to fund some of their spending spree, they’re preparing to provide tax relief for wealthy Democrat donors.
“Mr. President, I’m disturbed by the fact that Democrats are willing to jeopardize family farms and ranches to help fund their spending spree.
“But I’m not all that surprised.
“Because it’s clear from the bill that farmers and ranchers are not high on Democrats’ priority list.
“The bill’s spending on rail, for example, emphasizes passenger rail – which will benefit Amtrak and a handful of East Coast cities but means little to most Americans.
“The rail that matters to Americans in the heartland is freight rail, particularly short line railroads, which carry farmers’ and ranchers’ corn and wheat and beef to markets around the United States.
“But short line rail gets short shrift in this bill.
“Biofuels also get short shrift.
“As this bill makes clear, Democrats have picked their preferred winner in the clean energy stakes – electric vehicles.
“Biofuels take a back seat in Democrats’ legislation, despite the essential role they have played in making American energy cleaner – and despite the significance of biofuels to the rural economy.
“Mr. President, every few years, Congress passes a major farm bill.
“For decades, that legislation has been the product of bipartisan collaboration – and a lengthy hearing and fact-finding process that allows for extensive input from farmers and ranchers and other ag stakeholders.
“It’s one of the last truly bipartisan things we regularly do around here.
“But Democrats have decided to use their tax-and-spending spree to circumvent the bipartisan farm bill process.
“Democrats are extending farm programs without bipartisan input and without real involvement from many in the agriculture community.
“And of course they’re not extending all farm bill programs.
“They’re not, for example, extending – or providing money for – the farm safety net.
“Instead they’re targeting money at programs that they feel will allow them to advance their climate agenda.
“Farmers are not Democrats’ main interest when it comes to the agriculture provisions of this bill; Democrats’ climate agenda is the priority.
“Mr. President, if I’m not here in Washington for Senate business, I can usually be found back home in South Dakota, where I spend a lot of time talking to farmers and ranchers.
“Most of them haven’t shown a lot of interest in tax breaks for union dues or electric vehicle tax credits.
“But I have heard from a lot of farmers and ranchers who are worried that Democrats’ proposed tax policies may threaten their livelihood.
“And unfortunately they’re right to be worried.
“Speaker Pelosi suggested that this tax-and-spending spree was about Democrats’ values.
“Based on what we’ve seen, I’m not too sure those values align with those of rural Americans.
“Democrats’ tax-and-spending spree is a bad deal for rural Americans – and for working families around the country.
“And I’ll continue to do everything I can to protect Americans from the dangers of Democrats’ socialist fantasies.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”