MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Let's drill down further on one part of that tax bill unveiled today - the elimination of state and local tax deductions. That is a prospect that has drawn criticism from lawmakers from states with high taxes, among them Republican Leonard Lance of New Jersey.
And he's on the line now from Capitol Hill. Congressman Lance, thanks for joining us.
LEONARD LANCE: Thank you for having me, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Will you vote for this tax bill as it is written today?
LANCE: There is much that I like in the legislation, but the proposed cap on the deductibility of state and local taxes makes the bill unacceptable at the current time. But I do want to continue to negotiate on this issue.
KELLY: So a no vote unless it changes.
LANCE: I want to negotiate further, and I think that that's a possibility.
KELLY: Explain briefly why getting rid of the state and local tax deductions are - is a bad idea.
LANCE: This has been in the tax code since the beginning of the income tax in 1913. And quite a few states, including New Jersey, have high state and local taxes. High property taxes in New Jersey, and there's an income tax in New Jersey. And I don't really favor the concept of paying taxes on taxes.
KELLY: So can you give me a concrete example of what this would mean to one of your constituents?
LANCE: The legislation that was unveiled today says that property taxes can be deducted up to $10,000.
LANCE: And that is a good addition. And that was not initially contained in the discussions on this legislation. But the average deduction in the district I serve is roughly $21,000.
KELLY: Well, it's been a long road to get to today, a lot of compromises already made, as you know well. Do you think there is room for compromise? Are you getting signals from your fellow Republicans that they're open to reconsidering this?
LANCE: I certainly hope so. And I'm not alone in this. I believe my views are shared by other Republicans from high-tax states - not only New Jersey but New York. And California is a high-tax state, and Illinois is a high-tax state. And I would also hope that Democratic colleagues could join us. I don't think that this should be an issue that is decided merely by the Republican Party. I think that tax reform is something favored by the American people and that we should try to work in a bipartisan capacity.
KELLY: But if you're saying you will vote no on the bill in its current form, I have to ask. Are you prepared to potentially torpedo this tax bill over this issue?
LANCE: I believe that there can be further negotiations. And I think we can do both. I think we can make the situation better regarding the issue of state and local tax matters, and I think that we can have tax reform. I do not believe that the two are mutually exclusive.
KELLY: But again, as you know, there's not a lot of wiggle room in terms of vote margins on this without Democratic support for this tax bill. If you and lawmakers from California, New York, the other states you mentioned, peel off and don't support it, that could potentially blow up the chances of this bill passing.
LANCE: I think that our leadership should negotiate further. Leadership began from a position of saying that there should be no deductibility of state and local taxes. And leadership has moved off that position, as has the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. And I think that there can be further negotiations. And I'm certainly going to try to bring that about.
KELLY: How important is it for Republicans to get something - anything - passed by the end of this year in order to have something tangible to take home to New Jersey, in your case, and say, look; we're getting stuff done?
LANCE: I hope that that's possible. But I think it's more important to get it right. We should make sure that this is as across-the-board and as helpful to all Americans as possible, including those of us who are in states that have utilized SALT in the past, state and local tax deductions. And I hope that we can continue that.
KELLY: New Jersey Republican Leonard Lance. Congressman Lance, thank you very much.
LANCE: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.