Rep. Cisneros Submits Testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee Member Day

June 19, 2019
Press Release

**You can download Rep. Cisneros written testimony here**

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Congressman Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39) submitted testimony to a Member Day in the House Ways and Means Committee. He highlighted the priorities of the 39th Congressional District and legislation that would seek to eliminate the State and Local Tax deduction cap, address the student loan debt crisis, increase social security benefits, improve access to healthcare, and lower prescription drug prices.

The full text of his testimony delivered to the Committee is below: 

Chairman Neal, Ranking Member Brady, and Members of the House Committee on Ways and Means, thank you for allowing me this opportunity to provide testimony on the issues facing California’s 39th Congressional District.

The legislative areas under your jurisdiction are far reaching and critically important to my constituents and Americans nationwide.  Your work has the potential to help millions of American across the country better provide for their families, access affordable healthcare, and avoid poverty in retirement.

Unfortunately, action taken in the previous Congressional session has harmed many of my constituents and undermined their ability to provide for their families.  The 2017 tax bill enacted under the Republican majority last Congress has taken money out of their pockets and I urge this Committee to consider legislation to roll back the most harmful provisions. 

In particular, I urge you to eliminate the $10,000 cap on the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction, which has had a disproportionate effect on my constituents, punishing homeowners and undermining funding available for public schools, charitable giving, and county services for investing in their local communities.  In 2016, nearly 20% of taxpayers in the three counties in my district claimed a total combined deduction worth $3.2 billion.  I support legislation pending before this committee such as H.R. 515, the State and Local Tax Deduction Fairness Act of 2019, as introduced by Rep. Engel, to repeal the SALT tax deduction cap in its entirety. 

Understanding this can be an expensive effort coupled with numerous competing priorities, I ask that you, at a minimum, consider legislation to eliminate the SALT marriage penalty created by the 2017 tax law.  The SALT cap is set at $10,000 for both individual filers and joint filers, disproportionately harming families with married couples filing jointly.  Along with my colleagues, Reps. Sherrill, Stefanik and King, I introduced H.R. 2624, the SALT Relief and Marriage Penalty Elimination Act of 2019, to address this inequity and raise the deduction cap to match the standard deduction taken by taxpayers and ensure married couples are not subject to the same cap as individual. 

The 2017 tax law has also caused a significant amount of stress for seniors in my district who rely on earned benefits under Social Security and Medicare for retirement security and necessary medical care.  The $2.3 trillion cost of the tax law has led many in my district to reach out to me in fear that that the benefits they have earned and rely on to stay out of poverty will be cut to pay back this added debt. 

Cutting these programs for the sake of deficit reduction would be shortsighted and devastating to those who rely on their benefits.  Rather, we must work to ensure the solvency of the program is preserved and protected for future generations.  Modest changes made today will ensure our children and grandchildren can enjoy the same benefits that support seniors today.

I support Rep. Larson’s legislation, H.R. 860, the Social Security 2100 Act, to modestly increase Social Security benefits for current recipients while ensuring the program’s solvency through the year 2100, paid for by increasing the Payroll tax cap.  I urge this Committee to take action on H.R. 860 this Congress.

One of the best ways we can improve the solvency of the Medicare program while improving access to affordable healthcare is by addressing some of the larger drivers of healthcare costs, especially the high cost of prescription drugs.  According to the Medicare Board of Trustees, continued rises in costs throughout the US healthcare system is a continued driver of Medicare expenditures and insolvency.  I support legislation introduced by Subcommittee on Health Chairman Doggett, H.R. 1046, the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act, to end the prohibition preventing the Secretary of Health and Human Services from negotiating directly with Pharmaceutical companies on prescription drug prices.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) already allows for direct negotiation of prescription drugs leading to significant cost savings for the VA and veteran beneficiaries. Studies have shown that Medicare Part D pays on average 80 percent more than the VA for brand-name drugs and Medicare could save $16 billion a year if it secured these VA prices. 

I also wanted to take this opportunity to highlight my support for bipartisan legislation introduced by one of my close colleagues, Rep. Peters, to address the student loan crisis.  We have a responsibility to support affordable access to higher education.  My California colleague from San Diego has introduced legislation I support, H.R. 1043, the Employer Participation in Repayment Act with Rep. Rodney Davis.  This legislation would help address the student loan debt problem by encouraging employers to offer student loan assistance as a tax-exempt benefit for employees to help pay down their debt.  I urge this Committee to consider this legislation this session.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not thank you for your work to date to expand affordable access to healthcare, including considering legislation to lower prescription drug prices and holding a hearing on how to protect patients from surprise medical bills.   I have heard from too many constituents who skip medically necessary medications because they are not able to afford their medications, including one heartbreaking story of a kidney transplant recipient who was unable to afford expensive antirejection medications after surgery and ultimately had to go back on dialysis.  I urge you to continue your hard work on these difficult and complicated issues and stand ready to support you as needed.

Thank you again for your time and consideration.  I hope you will keep these issues in mind as you craft policies to assist small businesses nationwide in the 116th Congress.