Ryan Talking Tax Reform at New Balance Shoe Factory

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) —

House Speaker Paul Ryan is pitching Republican plans for overhauling the nation’s tax code as his party looks to reset amid its struggles on repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The Republican leader from Wisconsin was expected to give an update on the proposed tax code changes being worked on behind closed doors by the GOP-led Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration after he tours New Balance’s sneaker factory in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on Thursday.

Ryan also was scheduled to participate in a round-table discussion with company owner Jim Davis, Democratic Mayor Dan Rivera and other business leaders and elected officials during his factory visit.

Overhauling the nation’s tax system has been a top priority for Republicans, but the stakes have been magnified following the cratering of efforts to repeal Obama’s signature health care law for a second time.

A rewrite of the tax code could be the best chance for Trump and Republicans to score a major legislative win this year. The federal tax code hasn’t been overhauled in decades.

The White House and congressional Republicans have been privately negotiating their tax package for weeks, with no public sign that they’re near a consensus. Democrats have been excluded from the talks.

White House officials say they hope to release a comprehensive plan backed by Republicans in Congress this fall. Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, has promised the overhaul will be “responsible” and “paid for.”

Ryan has been pushing a tax overhaul that would lower income tax rates for individuals, corporations and small business owners, and make up the lost revenue by repealing many exemptions, deductions and credits.

Ryan has also proposed increasing taxes on imports to help pay for lower corporate rates, an idea rejected by Senate Republicans after retailers and other big importers lobbied against it.

On its face, a visit to strongly Democratic Massachusetts could be fraught for Ryan. Lawrence, a mostly blue-collar city where 75 percent of the residents are Latino, lies about 30 miles north of Boston near the New Hampshire state line. Ryan’s detractors planned to stage a protest Thursday across the street from the New Balance factory.

New Balance executives themselves have been supportive of Republicans.

Davis, the company’s billionaire owner, gave nearly $2 million during the last election to Republican candidates and political action committees across the country, including $100,000 to Ryan’s campaign, federal campaign records show.

In November, Matt LeBretton, a New Balance vice president, publicly praised Trump’s election as a move in the “right direction,” raising the ire of some customers who burned their shoes or threw them in the trash in protest.

New Balance was founded in 1906 in Boston, where it remains headquartered. It employs more than 6,000 workers and operates two factories in Massachusetts, three in Maine and one in the United Kingdom.

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