WASHINGTON — Western New York State won't have a direct voice in the House-Senate negotiations intended to result in a massive tax reform package that aims to cut rates while slashing a key tax break that the Empire State enjoys.
House leaders this week announced the members of the conference committee that will hammer out the compromise tax bill, and there are no New Yorkers on the list — even though Rep. Tom Reed, a Corning Republican, and Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, both sit on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
That means there will be no House member at conference committee meetings raising the concerns that New York state and local officials have raised about a proposed deep cut in the state and local tax deduction.
While taxpayers nationwide have long been able to deduct the state and local taxes they pay on their federal returns, the emerging tax bill would limit that deduction to the first $10,000 of property taxes paid. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and even some Republicans in the state have said that move would boost federal taxes for homeowners in New York City's suburbs and other more expensive housing markets, and even lead to declining home prices.
Reed previously said he wanted to serve on the conference committee, but on Tuesday he said he wasn't disappointed to be left off the panel, which consists largely of Ways and Means subcommittee leaders with more seniority.
"I completely understand, looking at the list of individuals who are on the conference committee," Reed said.
He said he will work with the people on the conference committee — including Rep. Kevin Brady, the Texas Republican who chairs the Ways and Means panel — to try to preserve the historic preservation tax credit and otherwise look out for New York's interests.
"I'm very confident that with our position, we will be able to influence the process," said Reed, who long has backed the move to trim the so-called "SALT" deduction as a compromise that's better than the original proposal to eliminate the deduction entirely.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, named nine lawmakers to the conference committee, while Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, named five House members to the panel.
Higgins said he didn't ask to serve on the conference committee, knowing that more senior members of Ways and Means would be appointed and thinking that Democrats would have no influence on the final compromise bill.
"I think the House and Senate bills are awful, and I don't think there's much likelihood of them changing in any big way," he said.
Senate leaders have not yet appointed members to the tax conference committee, but it is unlikely that either of New York's two senators will serve on it.
By custom, Senate leaders typically don't serve on conference committees, and New York's senior senator is Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. And Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, like Schumer a Democrat, doesn't serve on the Finance Committee, which is expected to supply the majority of the Senate members of the conference committee.