As a part of the Denison Development Alliance’s annual economic summit Friday, U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe spoke regarding the recent passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The annual event, now in its 17th year, brings together economic developers, employers and representatives for local industries to discuss the state of the local economy and the events that shaped it over the past year.
“2017 truly was a year of legislative accomplishment and achievement,” Ratcliffe, a Republican said during Friday’s summit. “Not just on a national level but in a way that is going to improve Grayson County and Denison specifically.”
Ratcliffe opened his speech to the crowd of about 300 by outlining the economic growth that took place this year. The Standard & Poor’s index also saw consistent growth across all months of 2017.
“That has never happened before in American history,” he said.
In 2017, Ratcliffe said the U.S. gross domestic product grew by 3.2 percent over the past year. By comparison, the GDP grew by about 2 percent over the previous eight years, Ratcliffe said.
“We are seeing the lowest unemployment rates in a decade and those are unemployment rates across the board in all demographics.”
Among the economic successes in 2017, Ratcliffe said the passage of the tax reform bill will likely be one of the most important and have the longest reaching impact. The bill, which was signed by President Donald Trump in late December, issues a number of tax cuts that will impact individual rates for all Americans Ratcliffe said. Among the features of the bill are a doubling of the child tax deduction and an increase to the standard deduction, he said.
Locally, Ratcliffe said the bill is expected to create an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 jobs in Texas alone. However, on the individual level, Ratcliffe said taxpayers may see the biggest change in their tax savings each month based on the increase to the standard deduction.
“An extra $250 or $300 a month to families in those income ranges will have a profound effect on the economic well-being of our community going forward,” he said.
On a larger level, Ratcliffe went on say that the effects of the bill can already be seen locally in Apple’s decision to support Finisar with grant funding, which lead to the announcement that the electronic parts producer would start production in the former MEMC building. While Apple was not initially involved with the decision, officials with the Sherman Economic Development Corporation said previously that discussions with Finisar started in late 2015. The project was originally named Project Star, which was later changed to Project Heather following Apple’s involvement.
Despite Ratcliffe’s optimism about the tax reform, some worry that the tax cuts will increase the country’s deficits instead of eliminating them, as was promised during Trump’s 2016 presidential run. The conservative-leaning Tax Foundation released a report in mid-December that found that the tax cuts would increase the federal deficit by about $448 billion over the course of 10 years.
In an interview after his speech, Ratcliffe said he is optimistic that the tax cuts will lead to economic growth that will soften the blow and impact on the deficit. In addition to this, he went on to say that Congress can help the process by making certain parts of the tax reform bill permanent now that it has passed.
“Now that it has passed and the economy is going to benefit from that, we’ll get some bipartisan support to apply some of the additional changes if Democrats will work with Republicans on these issues,” he said.