By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune staff writer
— Rep. Todd Rokita said he supports reducing the number of income tax brackets from six to two and wants more wage earners to pay taxes.
Rokita, R-4th District, met for about one hour Tuesday with local residents at the Main Street Cafe.
Rokita said the two tax brackets would be a 25 and 15 percent tax rate, but the details of a proposal haven’t been finalized.
“We want to lower the rates for everyone,” he said. “Any bill has to be revenue neutral, and to accomplish that we need to reduce the number of loopholes.”
The deduction for interest paid on home mortgages would probably remain, Rokita said.
“If we go from six brackets to two, there will be more opportunities for people to use their money as they wish,” he said when asked about the deductions for charitable giving.
Rokita said the deduction for charitable giving will remain in the federal tax code, but there could be some changes on how it is calculated.
“I don’t see people wanting to do away with the charitable deduction,” he said.
He said right now 50 percent of wage earners in the United States pay no federal income taxes.
“Everyone should pay something,” Rokita said. “Everyone should pay for national defense. There is a level where people shouldn’t have to pay taxes, that level hasn’t been determined.”
Rokita also addressed immigration reform, saying a proposal by eight senators is just a starting point, and a lot more discussion has to take place.
“This is the beginning of the discussion of immigration,” he said. “We have always welcomed people into this country, but they have to come in the right way.”
Rokita said there is no excuse when people say the immigration laws aren’t working and they enter the country illegally.
“People shouldn’t have to pick up and leave,” he said. “But the punishment has to fit the crime. The punishment could be several different things.”
Rokita said immigration reform is not about enforcing the laws at the borders because that only solves a portion of the problem.
“There are a lot of people overstaying their visas,” he said. “We need to overhaul how we monitor people who are here as our guests.”
Rokita said Indiana residents spend a lot of money at Purdue University and Indiana University Kokomo educating people from other countries. He said students receiving degrees in science, technology, education or mathematics should be encouraged to remain in the U.S.
“If you get a degree in one of those areas we want you to stay and start working on your citizenship,” he said.
Rokita said there has to be a national discussion on immigration reform and indicated he is keeping an open mind.
“The first part is we have to seal the border,” he said. “We then have to use technology to track, monitor and communicate with people here as our guests. We should know where they’re at.”
When asked about the backlog within the Veterans Administration when it comes to benefits for disabled members of the military, Rokita said as a member of the House Budget Committee, the numbers are scary.
“We need to keep our promises to veterans,” he said. “There is a lot of waste in the VA.”
Rokita said the nation doesn’t adequately account for the cost of war and the ongoing benefits for veterans who need medical services.
“The rate of disability among American men and women is higher in Iraq and Afghanistan than in other wars,” he said. “We need to keep our promises to those people.”