On Nov. 29, the ballroom at the St. Charles Convention Center held spectators, local government officials and media personnel for a private event where President Donald J. Trump rallied support for the 2017 tax reform policies currently under consideration in Congress.
As Trump took the stage, a sea of cellphones shot into the air.
“It’s truly an amazing event,” FM NewsTalk 97.1 host Jaime Allman said. “[President Trump] sort of started this whole bandwagon in Springfield, Missouri. Now, by coming to the St. Charles area, it’s all come full circle.”
More than 1,000 people attended the speech.
Passage of Trump’s tax plan through the Senate would effectively alter the rate of taxation for both businesses and individuals while also calling for the elimination of several tax deductions. The plan proposes the country’s largest tax cut in almost 30 years.
On Nov. 29, Trump insisted that the tax cuts are for the benefit of businesses and working-class citizens in St. Charles and beyond.
“This beautiful city of St. Charles is the perfect place to deliver the message that I want to deliver,” Trump said. “It’s the place where America’s past and future come to life on its historic brick-lined Main Street.”
Although the focus of Trump’s speech was the proposed tax cuts, two local St. Charles businesses also received attention at the podium. Trump specifically referenced Randy Schilling, president of OPO Startups and Cassandra Porlier from Cassandra Erin Jewelry in St. Charles.
Trump also proclaimed his support for Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley [R], the lead contender for the Senate seat now held by Sen. Claire McCaskill [D], who has previously voted against the Republican tax measure.
“Josh, when you’re ready, you have my word, I’m going to come here and campaign for you,” Trump said during his Nov. 29 speech.
The Republican tax plan was introduced in the House of Representatives on Nov. 2. By Nov. 9, the House Ways and Means Committee had passed the bill on a party-line vote and advanced it to the House floor where it passed 227-205 on Nov. 16, with 13 Republicans voting against it. Companion legislation passed the Senate Finance Committee with a 14-12 vote on the same day.
The plan suggests lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent with the intent of helping small businesses and pass-through entities like partnerships or S-Corporations.
“The beating heart of our plan is a tax cut for working families,” Trump said. The news was positively received by many small business owners who attended the event.
“For a while now, a lot of small businesses have really felt the weight of taxes and restrictions from the federal government,” said Tom Shaw Jr., of Tom Shaw Realtors, while standing in line to enter the event. “He [Trump] is a businessman. He knows what we want.”Scott Tate, president and CEO of the Greater St. Charles County Chamber of Commerce, also attended the event with chamber staff.
“Any time you have somebody looking at tax cuts for small businesses, the chamber is going to be there,” Tate said at the event. “Take a look at Main Street. I think that’s part of the reason he chose St. Charles.”
According to Tate, St. Charles County is the wealthiest county in the state based on demographics. Tate also cited the county’s high wages and 2.7-percent unemployment statistic as being evidence of the county’s business success.
“The chamber board was invited to join, and regardless of who it is, if the president is a Democrat or Republican, the chamber will certainly respect the office and attend,” Tate said following Trump’s speech. “Several years ago when former President [Barack] Obama came to town, the chamber also was able to attend. Any issues that pertain to small business, and even just a presidential visit, we’re going to be there representing our community.”
Highlights of the proposed tax plan include decreasing the number of marginal income tax rate brackets from seven to four, reducing taxes for individuals across multiple levels of income, expanding the child tax credit and providing a one-time low tax rate to return corporate money from overseas.
“We cannot sit idly by and watch ourselves losing in competition to other countries as they continue to take away our jobs because their tax codes are more competitive and less burdensome than ours,” Trump said.
According to former Missouri Speaker of the House Tim Jones, who attended the Nov. 29 event, the version of the plan currently under discussion would mean that a family of four with an income of $60,000 would receive annual tax relief of $1,000 to $1,500.
“We saw explosive growth after the tax cuts from the JFK [John F. Kennedy] Administration and the Reagan Administration,” Jones said at the Nov. 29 event. “I’d expect we’d see that same explosive growth again with these cuts.”
Although Trump stated during his speech that the proposed tax cuts would not benefit wealthy taxpayers, those claims have been scrutinized. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate version of the bill would hurt workers earning less than $30,000. Also according to The Joint Committee on Taxation’s evaluation of the Senate bill, the biggest benefits of the bill would drift to wealthier individuals. The Committee further contends that, by 2027, Americans earning $75,000 a year and below would see a tax increase because individual tax cuts would cease at the end of 2025 and a possible $1.4 trillion added to the national debt. Also proposed is the elimination of the estate tax, which would benefit wealthier taxpayers.
McCaskill released a statement on Nov. 29 stating that she is “eager to support real, bipartisan tax reform. I’d jump at the chance to support a plan to deliver relief to Missouri’s working families, simplify the tax code, close loopholes exploited by the rich, and lower the corporate tax rate.”
“Unfortunately, this tax plan doesn’t live up the commitment I got from President Trump when he told me he wouldn’t support tax reform that benefited the very rich at the expense of the little guy,” the statement said.
Over 100 protestors stood outside the building in approved demonstration areas holding signs and chanting phrases such as “Stand up, fight back” and “Kill the bill!”
Across from protestors, Trump supporters also gathered onsite wearing memorabilia and carrying signs that proclaimed “Make America Great, Fix the Rate.”
“I just want to let President Trump know we support him,” a supporter named Samuel said prior to Trump’s speech on Nov. 29. “The more the establishment hates on him, the more I like him.”
During his speech, Trump said the moment was right for tax cuts, with Republicans in control of the Senate and House of Representatives.
“Small business groups across our nation, retailers, restaurants, manufacturers, grocers, contractors support this plan. We have tremendous support for this plan. Tremendous. Because these massive tax cuts will be rocket fuel – Little Rocket Man – rocket fuel for the American economy,” Trump said, adding in a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.