Congress recently passed a historic, pro-growth tax-reform bill that includes four major victories for Texans that I worked hard to secure.
The first major victory is the repeal of Obamacare's unconstitutional individual mandate, which forces you to purchase a product — Obamacare-approved health insurance — against your will. The individual mandate is one of the most unfair and unpopular parts of Obamacare. It is also one of the largest tax increases ever inflicted upon the American people. The IRS has fined roughly 6.5 million Americans because they can't afford this mandate. About 1 million of those fined by the IRS live in Texas. And of those 6.5 million nationwide who were fined, roughly 80 percent earned $50,000 per year or less. Roughly 40 percent earned $25,000 per year or less.
Second, we were able to stop a $350 billion tax increase that threatened to make its way into the bill at the 11th hour. One senator with good-faith concerns about increasing the federal deficit wanted to include an automatic tax increase of $350 billion in the bill if the economy failed to grow the way many conservatives and economists expect it will after these tax cuts. Republican leadership had to cut a deal with that senator to get the bill out of the Budget Committee, so the tax increases were added to the bill. I believed this was a major mistake, so I quickly went to the Senate floor and made the case to keep the hard-fought tax cuts in the bill and remove any automatic tax increase. My colleagues agreed with me, and Republicans joined me in passing tax cuts without the proposed $350 billion tax increase.
Third, we ensured Americans in every bracket will receive a tax cut. This bill originally eliminated the state and local tax deductions, a strong conservative reform that guarantees states and local governments won't continue to pile on tax increase after tax increase because they know it will be subsidized by you, the federal taxpayer. I'm proud that a change I supported is in the final bill, allowing all taxpayers to deduct up to $10,000 of state and local income and property taxes. We may have no state income tax in Texas, but many pay a hefty property tax bill, and this is another victory for taxpayers in our state.
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Finally, the Senate passed my Student Opportunity Amendment to expand the hugely popular 529 College Savings Plans to include the opportunity to save and pay for public and private K-12 education. Nearly 41,000 Texas families use 529 accounts to save for the college educations of their children and grandchildren in a tax-advantaged fashion. Anyone can contribute to a 529 account with after-tax money, which then grows tax-free and can be spent without paying taxes on the earnings. By expanding these accounts to include public and private K-12 education, my amendment gives parents in Texas and across the country a powerful tool to help them provide for their children's educational needs, regardless of income or ZIP code. This major reform — the most significant school-choice legislation in history — passed the Senate 50-50, with the vice president casting the tie-breaking vote.
As I travel all over our state, I consistently hear from Texans that they want real tax cuts that will help unleash our economy, create millions of jobs and bring much-needed relief to family budgets. Jobs are my top priority, and this historic tax cut delivers on those promises.
Sen. Ted Cruz represents Texas in the U.S. Senate.