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In Some Congressional Districts, The Tax Cut is Actually Hurting Republican Campaigns


One of the Republican's signature accomplishments in Congress was a big tax cut for people and businesses. But Republicans haven't been talking much about the tax cut. And in some of the swing districts that could determine control of Congress, that's actually hurting them. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Mikie Sherrill makes her way through an indoor farmer's market in Madison, N.J., shaking hands and talking to voters.

MIKIE SHERRILL: Have you guys been following the election at all?

ZARROLI: Sherrill is a Democrat running for New Jersey's 11th Congressional District. This area has long been reliably Republican - a wealthy, well-educated district where taxes are a perennial issue. Sure enough, one of the first people Sherrill approaches, Joe Lopiccolo, gives her an earful about property taxes.

JOE LOPICCOLO: In Pennsylvania, you can get three times the size of a home with a quarter of the taxes.

ZARROLI: But Lopiccolo is no fan of the tax cut passed by Congress last year. While it lowered taxes for more than three-fifths of New Jersey residents, it also capped the deduction on state and local taxes at $10,000 a year. And Sherrill says that's a big deal in a district where average property taxes are almost twice that much.

SHERRILL: You know, it's something that's really creating a bigger and bigger burden on our families.

ZARROLI: Sherrill says she regularly hears complaints about the bill, even from Republicans such as Cali Yost.

CALI YOST: I think it was a tax increase. And it's not fair for New Jersey because we send so much money back to the federal government - then to take away our deduction really even puts us further in the hole.

ZARROLI: The tax cut was sold as a means of jump-starting growth, and it arguably did that. But Patrick Murray, of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, says few Republicans are talking about it in their campaigns. It's not that most people dislike the tax cuts. It's just that a lot of voters don't think they benefited much from them.

PATRICK MURRAY: In places where it might have an impact - the only few places where we've seen it come up, it's been a negative.

ZARROLI: Murray says the tax bill remains deeply unpopular in some swing districts in high-tax states such as California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois - districts that will help determine control of the House. That has put Republicans running in those places on the defensive. Mikie Sherrill's opponent in New Jersey's 11th is State Assemblyman Jay Webber. He regularly tells voters that there was more to the tax bill than the state and local tax deduction.

JAY WEBBER: But just to focus on one piece of this and pretend that it's the whole tax package is simply wrong. And overall we see the economy growing. We see our taxes cut. And overall it's a good thing.

ZARROLI: To win next week, Republicans such as Webber will need to remind voters of their long track record of cutting taxes. But in some parts of New Jersey, polls suggest that getting that message across has become more complicated than it used to be. Jim Zarroli, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.