Hudson Valley families deserve SALT relief. Congress must deliver

March 2, 2024

Lohud – Opinion
By Mike Lawler

 A cop and a teacher with two small children and a modest home in Yorktown.  

A shop owner and a nurse in Suffern. 

A landscaper and a non-profit executive expecting a first child in Carmel. 

This is what middle class families look like in the Hudson Valley, and many of them are hurting.  

Prior to 2017, married New York couples were able to fully deduct state and local taxes — SALT — from their perennial federal income tax filings. The 2017 SALT revisions, signed into law by then-President Donald Trump, restricted the amount one can deduct to $10,000 for both individuals and married couples, effectively penalizing couples for tying the knot. That’s no small loss for families pinching pennies to get by.  

A recent non-partisan study estimated that amounted to a $1,700 tax increase for local families — on top of what are already the highest taxes in America. 

I promised voters I’d do something about this if elected to Congress, and I’m proud to say that, after months of passionate haranguing, I was able to force through the Rules Committee legislation I authored called “The SALT Marriage Penalty Elimination Act” (H.R.7160) that would provide a full $20,000 annual deduction for married couples. 

In passing the 2017 SALT deduction changes, politicians in both parties in Washington argued that families living in high tax states, like New York and California, have no right to higher federal deductions than Americans in other states. They reasoned that by penalizing taxpayers in expensive, big-government states, voters feeling the sting would pressure state and local legislators to begin reducing their tax loads. 

Good luck with that in New York, where the Democratic governor and Democratic majority in the Legislature have shown zero willingness to reduce New York’s tax load, only adding to it with outrageous new taxing schemes like the upcoming $15 congestion tax to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street by car. Indeed, Albany hasn’t substantially lowered taxes since former Gov. George Pataki’s personal income tax cut in his first year in office. That was a long, long time ago. 

With near total gridlock in Washington, a common-sense, bipartisan law change over SALT would have pointed the way for other cooperative efforts between the two parties. God knows we need that.  

When I first ran for Congress almost two years ago, I promised voters that I’d call “balls and strikes” in Washington on legislation that could help or hurt my constituents. The SALT deduction inequity for married couples is one of those issues. It doesn’t matter that my Republican colleagues passed the 2017 SALT limitations, or that they were signed into law by a president from my own political party, the revisions were bad for my neighbors, so I need to do something about it, politics be damned. 

I had been hopeful to have enough bipartisan support for this measure to finally reverse the SALT inequity on married New Yorkers. 

But, alas, partisan politics got in the way. 

For years, Democrats, including Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, have claimed they’re fighting to lift or repeal the SALT Cap.  

Yet, just like when they controlled the White House, Senate, and House in 2021 and 2022, when Democrats were presented with a real opportunity to provide SALT relief to hundreds of thousands of families across New York State, they balked. Every single New York House Democrat voted no. Why? Because they put politics before the very people they represent with Leader Jeffries making it clear he wouldn’t allow New York Republicans a “win” in an election year. 

So much for wanting to work across party lines to address SALT. 

There are also a number of Republicans in Washington who didn’t support my bill, and they’ve let me know it. Some of them loudly. They erected every possible obstacle to my legislation along the way to kill off this latest attempt at SALT relief which Hudson Valley residents so deserve. 

Shame on both parties — especially as we had all just worked together on a landmark tax bill, which I supported, that greatly expanded the Child Tax Credit and enacted significant small business tax cuts. 

I joined with my Democratic colleague from New Jersey, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, whom I am also working with in opposition to the congestion pricing tax, to lobby for these changes. Gottheimer and I even sent a joint letter to the Ways and Means Committee advocating for this critical tax relief. 

There was a time in Washington when bipartisan efforts like ours were a matter of course. We need to get back to that again. 

But rest assured, I will not be deterred. We will continue to work towards lifting the cap on SALT — which expires in 2025 — and fighting for hard working middle-class New Yorkers and Hudson Valley families that need immediate tax relief. 

Rep. Mike Lawler represents New York’s 17th Congressional District, which includes Rockland County, Putnam County and portions of Westchester and Dutchess counties.