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Thune: There Are Ways to Help Revive the Economy Without Spending Trillions of Dollars

ā€œIā€™m committed to supporting legislation that will help Americans get through this crisis while minimizing the burden on future generations.ā€

June 4, 2020

Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, today discussed Senate Republicans’ continued effort to provide Americans who are feeling the economic effect of this global health crisis with real relief. Thune highlighted three tax bills he has introduced that would help Americans during and after the pandemic: the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act, the NEW GIG Act, and the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act.  

Excerpt of Thune’s remarks below:

“Mr. President, responding to the coronavirus continues to be one of our top priorities here in Congress.

“It’s encouraging to see economies around the country starting to reopen.

“But there’s still a lot of work to be done to defeat this virus and help our economy – and the American people – recover.

“Here in the Senate, we’ve spent the past few weeks focused on monitoring the implementation of the $2.4 trillion in aid that Congress has provided.

“Our committees are hard at work conducting coronavirus oversight and looking ahead to what else Congress may need to do to combat the virus and get our economy going again.

“We’re looking at what more funding Congress may need to provide – and what Congress can do that doesn’t involve a lot of new spending.

“As I said, Congress has provided $2.4 trillion to fight the coronavirus.

“And we will absolutely provide more if needed.

“But we need to remember that every dollar we’ve provided is borrowed money that our children and grandchildren will have to repay.

“Our debt was already very large compared to the size of our economy even before this year’s coronavirus-related borrowing.

“And that’s a very concerning reality.

“The truth is, we can’t just keep borrowing and borrowing ever greater sums without suffering real economic consequences.

“And so while we may need to borrow more money to meet our needs before this crisis is over, it’s crucial that we keep that borrowing as low as possible and only spend what is absolutely necessary.

“That’s why the Senate is so focused on conducting oversight of the money we’ve already provided.

“Seeing how and where those funds are used will give us a better sense of where we’ve spent sufficiently and where more money may be needed.

“We’re also, as I said, looking at what we can do to help families and businesses that does not involve spending a lot of taxpayer dollars.

“While my friends across the aisle generally seem to regard money – or a new government program – as the solution to every problem, the truth is, there are a lot of things Congress can do without spending trillions of taxpayer dollars or setting up new government bureaucracies.

“Everything from making permanent reforms to make telehealth more accessible to shielding responsible businesses from frivolous litigation.

“I have three tax bills that I’ve introduced this Congress that would help Americans during and after the pandemic.

“One of these bills is my Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act, which I introduced last year along with Senator Sherrod Brown.

“In our economy, substantial numbers of workers travel to different states for temporary work assignments on a regular basis.

“And they end up subject to a bewildering variety of state laws governing state income tax.

“Our legislation would simplify things for both workers and employers by creating an across-the-board tax standard for mobile employees who spend a short period of time working across state lines.

“It would ensure that states receive fair tax payments while making life a lot easier for workers who travel to different states for work. 

“While this legislation is good tax policy generally – we’ve needed clear rules of the road for out-of-state workers for a while – it has particular relevance in the age of coronavirus.

“The governor of New York has made it clear that he’s looking to cash in on the pandemic by subjecting doctors and nurses who crossed state lines to voluntarily work in New York to New York’s income tax.

“We need to make sure that medical professionals who traveled to other states to help fight the coronavirus aren’t rewarded with big tax bills.

“Another tax bill I introduced last year that has particular relevance in the age of coronavirus is my New Economy Works to Guarantee Independence and Growth Act – or NEW GIG Act.

“The last decade or so has seen the rise of the “gig economy” – services provided by individuals through apps and websites like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Instacart, Postmates, and many others.

“A lot of us have relied on these workers during the pandemic to provide food and grocery delivery.

“But these gig economy arrangements stretch the boundaries of current tax law. 

“And during the pandemic, companies who have wanted to provide additional benefits to workers – from personal protective equipment to financial assistance – have hesitated to do so for fear that their actions would accidentally reclassify their workers from independent contractors to employees.

“That would mean the end of this kind of work for a lot of people who rely on it for the income and flexibility it provides.

“My NEW GIG Act updates our tax law to provide clear guidance on the classification of this new generation of workers.

“It will ensure that Lyft drivers, Postmates, Taskers, and others are treated as independent contractors for purposes of tax law if they meet a set of objective criteria. 

“My bill will allow companies to provide support to workers to help them stay safe during the pandemic without jeopardizing these individuals’ status as independent contractors.

“And it will ensure that the valuable services these individuals provide will remain available to the Americans who are increasingly reliant on them.

“In addition to the NEW GIG Act, I also introduced the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act last March.

“This legislation, which I introduced with Senator Wyden, is designed to prevent consumers from being faced with multiple taxes for downloading digital products.

“Over the past few months, I imagine a lot of Americans have purchased new books to read on their Kindle or a new television series to watch.

“But what many Americans don’t know is that right now, a digital purchase of a book or television series could hypothetically be taxed in up to three states, depending on the circumstances of the purchase.

“And with states likely looking to find new revenue in the wake of declining receipts during the pandemic, there’s a real danger that Americans could see multiple states’ worth of taxes on their digital purchases.

“The Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act would provide “rules of the road” for taxing digital goods and services and ensure that digital purchases could only be taxed in one state – the state in which the consumer resides.

“It would also prohibit states and local governments from taxing digital goods at higher rates than tangible goods.

“In other words, under our bill, that season of The Office you want to buy digitally couldn’t be taxed at a higher rate than if you were purchasing the season on DVD.

“Mr. President, these tax bills are just some of the ideas Republicans are putting forward that would help Americans without spending trillions of additional taxpayer dollars.

“I’m working on multiple other measures to help Americans in the wake of the coronavirus.

“For example, the CARES Act, our largest coronavirus response bill to date, included a temporary version of legislation I introduced with Senator Warner that allows employers to contribute up to $5,250 tax-free to help pay down their employees’ student loans.

“This is a win for employees, who can receive help with burdensome loan payments, during a time when most Americans’ finances are stretched thin.

“And it’s a win for employers, who have a new benefit to offer to help attract talented employees as they seek to build their businesses back up after the past few months of COVID-related challenges.

“I’m hoping we can make this legislation permanent before the end of the year.

“As I said earlier, if we need to provide additional coronavirus funding, we will.

“But we need to make sure we are only providing what is genuinely necessary.

“Because today’s young workers, and our children and grandchildren, will be paying the price for the debt we’re amassing. 

“I’m committed to supporting legislation that will help Americans get through this crisis while minimizing the burden on future generations.

“My tax bills are one example of this kind of legislation.

“And I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance them in the Senate. 

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”