BURLINGTON — To get a better understanding of what local businesses are facing in the current economy, House Speaker Paul Ryan stopped in Burlington to listen to executives and workers and to preview a major push for tax reform.
In Burlington, Ryan visited LDV Inc., a company which manufactures specialty vehicles such as mobile command centers, to promote tax reform for businesses and individuals. The stop was one of several Ryan made Friday at businesses throughout the Wisconsin 1st Congressional District, which he represents.
“The tax rate on this business is 44.6 percent,” Ryan said to a crowd of more than 100 LDV employees. “The average tax rate that industrialized countries tax their businesses is 22.5 percent … we are losing competition. We are losing jobs.”
Lowering the corporate tax rate is a major issue for LDV as it looks to compete more efficiently internationally.
“The big issue is our competition is out of this country,” LDV founder and owner David Lynch said. “We can’t compete. They’re going to kill us. They’re going to kill us eventually.”
Lynch said there needs to be a change in the tax code otherwise business could close.
Ryan used the example of Johnson Controls Inc., which moved its headquarters from Glendale, Wis., to Ireland for a low tax rate, as a reason for why tax reform should be addressed in the fall.
“Johnson Controls was our biggest Wisconsin-based publicly traded corporation. Johnson Controls is an Irish company now,” Ryan said. “And their worldwide tax rate is 12.5 percent instead of 35 percent because the Irish tax rate is 12.5 percent.”
‘Get rid of the loopholes’
For individuals, Ryan said the tax code is too complicated and needs to be simplified so people know what to expect.
“What we want to do is clear out the clutter in our tax code, make it really easy to comply with taxes, raise our standard deduction and then let people fill out their taxes on a form the size of a postcard,” Ryan said.
One of the major parts of tax reform would be raising the standard of exemption, which would allow individuals to cut back on the itemizations on their taxes to give rid of loopholes and streamline the process, Ryan said.
Ryan said he would allow for people to itemize donations to charities, mortgage interest, saving for retirement, but added “all the rest of it goes.”
“You take out a lot of special interests by doing that,” Ryan said. “On the business side, where there are just as many special-interest provisions, we’ve got to do the same thing. Get rid of the loopholes. Get rid of the carve-outs, lower taxes.”
Ryan hopes to have bipartisan support for tax reform but is confident it could pass the House and U.S. Senate with a simple majority vote.
The recent setback in the Senate effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act hasn’t deterred Ryan from taking on tax reform.
“We’re not going to allow the setback in the Senate on health care to knock us off track with our plans for tax reform in the fall,” Ryan said, adding that he urges the Senate to keep trying to pass health care legislation. “What we keep telling the Senate is, because the House passed our health care bill in May, keep working at it. In the meantime, we’re going to work on tax reform because we think that’s really important to get this economy growing as fast as possible.”
Foxconn incentive package
The July announcement of tech giant Foxconn’s plans to build a manufacturing plant in southeastern Wisconsin, Ryan said, is an example of all areas of government — from local to federal — working together towards a common interest.
“We saw that Foxconn deal as a game-changer for our economy,” Ryan said. “With this deal, we basically are helping make Wisconsin to be the industrial park of Silicon Valley.”
As part of the agreement to come to Wisconsin, Foxconn plans on investing $10 billion to build a facility in the area which could create 13,000 jobs, not including an estimated 10,000 construction jobs up front.
State legislators are preparing a package for the Taiwan-based company which could include up to $1.5 billion in state income tax credits for job creation; $1.35 billion in state income credits for capital investment; and $150 million for the sales-and-use tax exemption, according to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
Some legislators have criticized the potential size of the package, but Ryan said that criticism is “a bit misplaced.”
“The tax incentive package is conditional upon those jobs being created,” Ryan said. “You don’t want to just give money away, you want to have incentives, and that’s the way they designed it.”
Ryan also made stops Friday at Merz North America, 4133 Courtney St., Raymond; and at Allis-Roller in Franklin.