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Sen. Hoeven touts Congress' tax reform plan at roundtable

Sen. John Hoeven, right, leads a discussion on Wednesday, Dec. 27, about the tax plan recently approved by Congress. Joining him at American Crystal Sugar headquarters in Moorhead were, from left, David Mueller, a Hillsboro, N.D., farmer, Tom Astrup, American Crystal's president, Jake Joraanstad, co-founder of Myriad Mobile, and Vikki Schneeberger, a West Fargo teacher. Robin Huebner / Forum News Service

MOORHEAD, Minn. — Sen. John Hoeven assembled a group of people from the agriculture, technology and education sectors Wednesday, Dec. 27, to discuss how they may benefit from the tax reform plan approved by Congress this month.

Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, said the legislation, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, brings broad relief to individuals and families and lowers tax burdens on small businesses, farmers and ranchers.

"It's about getting that tax relief to middle-income Americans, to help people out in the workforce, to help families, but it is simplification, too," Hoeven said.

The event, held at American Crystal Sugar's headquarters in Moorhead, featured the sugar company's president, Tom Astrup, as well as Jake Joraanstad, co-founder of Myriad Mobile, David Mueller, a farmer from Hillsboro, N.D., and Vikki Schneeberger, a teacher from West Fargo.

Astrup thanked Hoeven for co-sponsoring an amendment that ensures farmer-owned co-ops benefit from the same tax relief that other businesses receive.

Mueller, who farms with his brother and son, sits on American Crystal's board of directors.

Among other things, Mueller said he's grateful for a provision that allows deduction of equipment expenses on a permanent basis.

Joraanstad, CEO of Myriad Mobile, likes the 20 percent tax deduction for qualified pass-through income. "If the business made $100,000, the ownership group would have to pay on only $80,000. You could reinvest that back in the business," Joraanstad said.

Schneeberger likes the possibility of a simplified, one-page tax return. "As a teacher, as a single parent, I feel like this could be a good thing," she said.

Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, Hoeven's counterpart in the U.S. Senate, voted against the tax reform bill and disputes the benefits touted by Hoeven and the Republican Party.

Hoeven's roundtable talk was similar to an event held in Fargo on Dec. 19 by Heitkamp.

In it, Heitkamp was joined by a tax attorney, small-business owner, senior citizen, farmer and construction representative to explain how the bill will hurt North Dakotans in the long term.

In a statement to The Forum on Wednesday, Heitkamp said the tax bill will increase the debt by nearly $1.5 trillion, which will be passed on to our children and grandchildren.

She said while the bill gives huge, permanent tax cuts to corporations and millionaires, "middle income families, including most farmers and ranchers, will see relatively modest cuts in the short-term and potential tax hikes in the long run."

Heitkamp also thinks the increased debt could prevent development of a more robust farm bill and keep more dollars from going into agricultural research.