Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) released an ambitious policy agenda Tuesday morning that included new income taxes for half the country.
On Tuesday evening, Scott pretended there was no tax hike.
Scott’s plan — which is clearly a campaign document rather than a serious policy proposal — has 11 parts, and the fiscal policy section says that everyone “should pay some income tax to have skin in the game,” noting that “over half of Americans pay no income tax.”
Democrats criticized the proposal on Tuesday and even Republican tax experts groaned about the politics of hiking taxes on the poor.
But when Fox News host Sean Hannity asked Scott on Tuesday night about his tax proposal, the former Florida governor simply denied that it exists. Noting the criticism of Scott’s proposal to raise taxes on half the country, Hannity asked, “Did you have that in your plan?”
“Of course not, oh no,” Scott said. “[Senate Majority Leader Sen.] Chuck Schumer, who wants to raise taxes for everything, while I’ve cut — when I was governor I cut taxes and fees 100 times. We’re the opposite.”
Scott, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, is right that half the country pays no income tax; it’s something that Republicans occasionally griped about during Barack Obama’s presidency.
But when Republicans reformed the tax code in 2017, they avoided adding tax hikes on lower earners. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubled the standard deduction, meaning couples this year can subtract $25,900 from their taxable income. The 12% tax rate doesn’t kick in until a couple’s taxable income exceeds $20,550. Of course, income taxes aren’t the only federal taxes: Anyone who works at a regular payroll job has Social Security and Medicare taxes automatically deducted from their paychecks.
On Wednesday, Scott suggested that he only supported higher taxes on the unemployed, a distinction not apparent from his Tuesday plan — which mostly focuses on culture war issues, declaring there are only two genders and requiring children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school.
“The change we need to make is to require those who are able-bodied but won’t work to pay a small amount so that we’re all in this together,” he tweeted. “This may be a big scary statement in Washington, but out in the real world, it’s just common sense.”
People whose incomes are so low that they don’t owe federal taxes are not required to file returns with the IRS. Under Scott’s proposal ― which would also slash the federal workforce by 25% ― the IRS would have to track down millions of non-earners to determine whether they were able-bodied.