Capito talks children’s health insurance, tax changes

CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s Republican U.S. senator told reporters Friday that lawmakers would reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program and find funding for it.

On a stop in Charleston on her way to Wayne County, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-WVa., said, “CHIP reauthorization is important to me. The 22,000 who are beneficiaries of this (in West Virginia) need to have the assurance that they are going to have their health care.

“I guarantee CHIP will be reauthorized for five years and paid for. It’s already been reauthorized; it will get paid for. I disagree with the strategy of holding it hostage in this two and three-month extensions. I wish we had done it in September when it passed out of committee.”

West Virginia has said it will end CHIP by Feb. 28 if the GOP-controlled Congress doesn’t approve funding for the program, which is nationwide.

Capito also defended the tax reform bill and explained how she believes it can help West Virginians.

“I voted for tax reform,” she said. “I believe in tax reform and I believe it’s been a long time coming. I think a lot of the rhetoric around  it would have you believe it came up in the middle of the night and was not considered. It was considered in 70 hearings, considered by both the House and the Senate and particularly on the corporate site has been in the making for 30 years since the Reagan tax cuts in the late 80s.”

Eighty-three percent of West Virginians file without taking itemizations, according to Capito.

“For those 83 percent of wage earners, they are going to have a doubling of the standard deduction, a doubling of the standard child tax credit. We also have more refundability on the child tax credit than we have had in the past.”

However, the bill also removes the personal exemptions, which will temper the amount paychecks will increase.

West Virginians should begin to see a change at the end of January/mid of February, according to Capito.

Approximately 95 percent of West Virginia businesses are small businesses and those businesses could also benefit as the corporate tax rate moves down.

“Small businesses will have more money at the end of the day to pay higher wages, improve IT and hire new people,” she said.

The corporate tax rate went from 35 to 20 percent.

“I think that’s important because we have a lot of big corporations that employ a lot of people,” she said.

If it is favorable for corporations to bring overseas money back into the United States, that could mean more investment in this country, more investment in the workforce and more investment in wages and jobs, Capito claimed.

“Also, for the companies here that aren’t invested globally, it’s an ability for them to restructure and to expand,” she said.

To pay for these changes, the bill is expected to increase the national debt by $1.4 trillion.

“While it’s not perfect, I think it’s very, very good for West Virginians and I think it’s good for the nation,” she said. “It will get this economy moving faster and more broader  so that our state legislators can marry some of their programs to what we have.”

For example, Capito said she will be discussing employment opportunity zones as a part of the tax reform with state legislators.

“It’s where it is targeted investments towards underdeveloped, undeveloped, low employment and poverty-level communities,” she said.

Having tax reform complete is good to turn the corner on into 2018 but there are still lots to be accomplished in Congress, she added.

For example, the miner pension issue still needs to be fixed.

“We fixed miner health care and this was a bipartisan issue,” she said. “Sen. Manchin and I worked on this and we are now working on pensions. There are thousands of West Virginia miners whose pensions are under duress because of the pension situation with UMW.”

Capito said she was glad to see the state road bond pass, despite the poor voter turnout.

“I was really proud of the state of West Virginia for affirming the road bond,” she said. “I know my party, at some point, in the state was opposed to the road bond.”

However, Capito said where some West Virginians may not trust the government to invest in road infrastructure, others were willing to try something different.

“We can’t keep doing what we are doing,” she said. “Let’s put some faith in this and some guardrails here on the spending. I would like to see that at the national level for infrastructure.”

Capito has been pushing broadband development in her home state and said she sees broadband as another type of infrastructure.

“If you have direct connectivity to your home, it can raise the value of your home $5,000 to $7,000,” she said. “It is what millennials are asking for when they go to shop for their homes and we are way, way underserved here.”

The U.S. Senator is also very interested in a proposed Appalachia Storage and Trading Hub project which would be a storage facility underground for highly valuable liquids and intermediates.

“We just had great news from the Department of Energy,” she said referring to the Appalachia Development Group’s invitation to submit the next phase of its application for a $1.9 billion loan guarantee from the DOE to support the infrastructure construction for the hub.

Capito, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014, but previously served 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, also commented on what she called the general attitude of Washington.

“You all know it’s been tough over there,” she said. “There’s been a lot of pushes and pulls. I think the American public is still sick of the bipartisanship.

“Personally, I think getting tax reform done shows we can do big things and we are capable of doing big things. I’m proud of that effort, not only because I think it’s going to help West Virginians but also because, again, an attitudinal thing. ‘Yes, they finally got something over the finish line.’”

With the swing in the Legislature to 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats now, Capito said that will also require more bipartisan legislation to accomplish tasks.

“I do believe immigration will probably be very top [priority] because the president gave us six months to figure it out,” she said. “I know that has been a bipartisan effort to try to figure out some way to solve the DACA problem for the children but also to sure up the border protection issues at the same time and maybe make some immigration reform. “

Capito was asked to comment on the “Fire and Fury” book, just released by Michael Wolff that chronicles the first nine months of President Donald Trump’s presidency.

Capito said she only knew what she had seen on media reports, did not know Wolff and did not know the specifics of the interviews and the techniques that were used to gather the information.

“I think some of that has been sort of questionable,” she said. “I also think I am old enough to know that there is a kernel of truth in a lot of things. I think we have to view, maybe with a jaundiced lens, realizing that there is probably some truth in what we have. I just think the focus issue is the biggest challenge for us.”

“I try to stay focused on the issues,” she said. “I wish the president would stay focused on the issues. That’s been a challenge for the last year.”

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