Pittsburgh's North Hills constituents worry GOP tax plan could hurt 12th District senior citizens | PolitiCrap

Pittsburgh's North Hills constituents worry GOP tax plan could hurt 12th District senior citizens

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Protesters outside of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' office in Ross on Nov. 29. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Protesters outside of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' office in Ross on Nov. 29.
Protesters in Pittsburgh’s North Hills are begging for their fellow residents to pay attention to the details of what is in store if the Republicans’ tax-reform bill passes and is signed into law.

“With the demographics that live in [Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District], almost no one will benefit from this plan,” said Stacey Vernallis, of left-leaning grassroots group PA 12 for Progress, at a Nov. 29 protest in Ross. About 20 other protesters joined Vernallis outside of the office of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) to protest the the proposed tax bill.

The 12th District, which spans from Beaver County through northern Allegheny County to Johnstown in Cambria County, has the oldest residents of any Congressional district in the state. According to census figures, the median age in the 12th is 45.2 years old. (For comparison, the 14th Congressional District, which encompasses Pittsburgh, has a median age of 38.4 years old.) Vernallis said she wants other 12th District constituents to realize that if Republicans’ tax bill goes through, it's very likely that Medicare, which provides health insurance to senior citizens, could be cut by $25 billion.

“The elderly don’t benefit from this tax plan,” said Vernallis. She added that she worries about all of the elderly who live in the North Hills, which is dotted with senior homes and living facilities. The 12th Congressional District is home to more than 143,000 people who are eligible for Medicare. (That’s about 20 percent of the district’s population.)

“I am worried it is going to pass,” said Linda Bishop, a Pine resident, also of PA 12 for Progress. She said she feels Republicans are selling their tax plan as a cut for everyone, and avoiding talking about the policies that could hurt middle-income Americans, like the elimination of tax deductions for student loans, home purchases and expenses relating to small businesses.

“They are covering up what this really is,” said Bishop. “This is an attack on the middle class, homeowners, teachers and senior citizens.”

Political newssite Vox reported that if the tax plan increases the debt, which the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted the bill will do, then U.S. Congress will be forced to cut federal spending, including $25 billion from Medicare. According to Vox, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh) denied this assessment and told reporters on Nov. 14, “No such thing is going to be triggered automatically.”

J.D. Digirolamo, of Ross, said he has little faith in what Republicans like Toomey, President Donald Trump and his congressman, Rothfus, are selling him. And he doesn’t believe the tax plan will benefit the middle class. “They lie,” said Digirolamo. “People who have small businesses won’t be helped.” Digirolamo said he wished Rothfus would hold a town hall with constituents to explain to them the details of the tax plan.

Bishop said she also doesn’t understand what constituency Rothfus is supporting with this tax plan. She noted that though tax cuts will be applied across the board initially, cuts for low- and middle-income individuals that will eventually expire, while corporations and the ultra-wealthy will keep their benefits indefinitely. “They are trying to take away the benefits from the people that need it the most and give those benefits to people who need it the least,” said Bishop.

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