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Reaction to federal tax plan runs the gamut

Madasyn Czebiniak
| Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, 5:42 p.m.
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 13:  U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform in the Cross Hall at the White House on December 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. House and Senate Republicans are working on a tentative deal on tax reform that will overhaul the U.S. tax system.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 13: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform in the Cross Hall at the White House on December 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. House and Senate Republicans are working on a tentative deal on tax reform that will overhaul the U.S. tax system. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Say what you want about the Republican tax bill, but one thing is certain: there's a lot of confusion about how it affects working class families.

The legislation has been asserted by President Trump to be “a tax bill for the middle class,” but the Tax Policy Center has estimated that the biggest benefit of the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul will go to households making $308,000 to $733,000.

So, what does that mean for Pennsylvanians? In the grand scheme of things, probably not a whole lot. The state has a median household income of $54,895 per year.

A tax calculator crafted by The Washington Post shows someone making $54,895 a year would receive a tax cut of about $850 in 2019. Comparatively, someone making over $3.6 million would get a cut averaging $85,640, the Post said.

The good news is, a majority of Americans will get a tax cut next year, and the overall taxpayer should see their after-tax income rise by 2.2 percent, Bloomberg reported. However, the tax cut for the lower-and-middle-income taxpayers will be so small, they might not notice it, and middle-income taxpayers earning $48,600 to $86,100 will get just a 1.6 percent bump, on average, Bloomberg said.

“The wealthy, meanwhile, will reap most of the benefits,” Bloomberg said.

The Trib spoke with several Western Pennsylvanians to see how the bill would affect them, and what they thought about those effects. Here are some highlights.

Alle-Kiski Valley

Those at the GetGo along Tarentum-Bridge Road had mixed opinions on the bill. A majority, however, seemed to be in favor.

Beth Meharey, 49, of Fawn said it will help the middle class because it will give tax breaks to bigger companies so they can create more jobs.

“I think that it will help in the long run,” said Meharey, a wound care nurse. “It may not be immediate — everybody wants everything now — it just takes time.”

Meharey makes between $40,000 and $50,000 a year. She hasn't had to worry about finding work, but said it has been difficult for her daughter and son-in-law to get anything but part-time jobs.

She thinks the bill eventually will help with that.

“I know people get mad and they think that it's going to be all for the rich and the people that own the companies, but they're the ones that will create the jobs,” she said.

Of the opposite opinion was Tracey Geracia, 49, of Harrison. Asked what she thought of Trump saying the bill is for the middle class, Geracia said: “I don't believe him.”

0A chef at De Blasio's Restaurant in Green Tree, Geracia makes about $35,000 a year.

She was unsure what she would be saving under the new bill but said it's not likely anything substantial.

“I would like to say it's a lot, but I know it's not going to be,” she said. “I don't expect it to go up, and I don't expect to get that much more back in my pay.”

Pittsburgh

Speaking outside a Target store on McKnight Road, Mirella Vercillo, 73, said the middle class is “going to get screwed” by the tax bill.

She said she didn't think it was fair that people making below the region's median income would see an annual tax cut of $60 to $850 while those making more than $732,000 would get a cut valued at more than $51,000.

“My kids, they're all middle class, and it's not going to do anything for them,” said Vercillo, a retired restaurant manager who takes in less than $20,000 a year in Social Security and retirement benefits. “Ask all these people around here. We're all middle class. We're the ones who are going to get screwed, totally.

“What's going to help us to be able to make millions of dollars,” Vercillo continued. “Well, they'll already have money. So why do they need a tax cut?”

Greensburg

Opinions on the tax bill from people outside the Greensburg post office ran the gamut from support to caution.

“I think it's a good thing. It can't be any worse than what we have now,” said Corey Cassidy, 43, of Greensburg. “I'll probably see a little bit (of tax savings).”

Ringing a bell for the Salvation Army red kettle, Endi Reindl said he's concerned about the impact the tax bill will have on charitable giving and the nonprofit organizations that depend on such giving.

The bill nearly doubles the standard deduction, leading some critics to predict that fewer people will itemize and that donations to charities will go down as a result.

“My concern is that it does cut the incentives for charitable giving quite drastically,” said Reindl, executive director of the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra.

The League of American Orchestras has expressed similar concerns, he said.

If his tax liability is lowered, Reindl said he hopes to increase his own charitable giving.

The Associated Press and staff writers Stephen Huba and Natasha Lindstrom contributed to this report. Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702, mczebiniak@tribweb.com or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib.

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