WILKES-BARRE — U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey on Friday said the recently passed Tax Cuts & Jobs Act will have lasting effects beyond the recent decisions of major companies to provide bonuses to employees.
Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, stopped at the Times Leader on Friday morning “for a chat,” as he called it, and at the top of his list was extolling the long-term benefits of the GOP-sponsored tax reform.
“We have already seen more than three million Americans receive direct pay raises, bonuses or increases in their pensions,” Toomey said. “But that’s not where the benefits will end.”
Toomey said the second wave will see reductions in withholdings. He said 90 to 95 percent of American families will owe less in taxes in 2018 than they did in 2017.
The third wave, Toomey said, will see the business community being able to expand, resulting in new hires and newer equipment to grow.
“The latest jobs report shows unemployment is relatively low,” Toomey said. “I think we will see it drop even further.”
Toomey couldn’t offer anything specific regarding economic development in Pennsylvania or, specifically, Northeastern Pennsylvania, other than to say “the horizon looks good.” He said the recent regional approach offered by Penn’s Northeast in its attempt to lure Amazon’s HQ2 to the area was impressive, and he can see that approach being successful for other pitches in the future.
“I’m seeing more and more of that across the commonwealth,” Toomey said. “Regions are pooling their resources and combining their pluses to attract companies and jobs.”
Toomey also expects a major rebound in natural gas prices that will lead to an uptick in new drilling and gas production, which would mean more jobs.
Social Security, Medicare
Toomey was quick to say that anybody currently enrolled in Social Security or Medicare or close to it need to be reassured they will receive the benefits they have earned.
“There is no threat to anybody’s benefit, let’s be clear on that,” Toomey stressed.
That said, Toomey predicted people in their thirties and younger now will receive benefits from the two programs, but “they will look different” decades from now. He said the government does have an obligation to provide the programs, but new ways of funding them must be found.
Barletta, Casey race
Toomey has endorsed U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, in the race for the U.S. Senate. Barletta must first win the GOP primary in May to earn the right to challenge incumbent Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, in November.
“Yes, Senator Casey and I have enjoyed a friendly working relationship,” Toomey said. “We have a good working relationship, especially where judicial appointments are concerned. But I am a Republican and I have endorsed Lou Barletta, just as Senator Casey endorsed my Democratic opponent.”
Toomey believes Barletta would make “a great senator,” and he sees the campaign as a very competitive race.
Toomey likes what President Donald Trump has been doing in office, but not what he’s been tweeting.
Toomey said Trump has managed to get a major rollback on Obamacare, a great U.S. Supreme Court justice, the tax reform act, weapons to the Ukrainians and a good relationship with China.
Toomey said Trump has performed well, despite not being a fundamentally ideological Republican.
Toomey also supported Friday’s release of the Nunes memo, written by Republican staff members for U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. It alleges the FBI “may have relied on politically motivated or questionable sources” to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant in the early phases of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Toomey feels the issue “needs transparency.”
“Did the FBI act appropriately? Were they politically motivated? If so, they must be held accountable,” he said.
“Sunshine is always a really good disinfectant.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.