President Donald Trump didn’t disappoint the majority of North Dakotans on Wednesday. He was greeted by enthusiastic crowds at the Bismarck airport and at the Andeavor Mandan Refinery.
Trump’s visit was well organized, with him arriving a little early at the airport and mostly staying on schedule. His tax speech was short on specifics, aides briefing the media in advance had said this would be the case, but he made some key points.
He promised tax relief for the middle class. He said he wants a simple, fair tax code that’s easy to understand — a tax form that can be completed at home without the help of a tax preparer.
"The pipefitters and plumbers, and nurses, and police officers — all the people like you who pour their hearts into every penny earned in both the offices and oilfields of America — you're the ones who carry this nation on your back, and it's time for you to get the relief that you deserve," Trump told the refinery crowd.
The president promised tax relief to middle-income families by raising the standard deduction, increasing the child tax credit and lowering tax rates.
He called for tax cuts for businesses, no matter their size, saying he would like a business tax rate around 15 percent. Trump also vowed to eliminate the inheritance tax, referring to it as the death tax.
He said these tax changes will help restore the nation’s competitive edge around the world. The result, he said, will be more jobs and higher wages.
The president knows he won’t be able to accomplish this without bipartisan support. That effort was on display throughout his trip. He invited Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., to travel on Air Force One to Bismarck along with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. He invited Gov. Doug Burgum, Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, Hoeven, Cramer and Heitkamp to the refinery stage, making special note of Heitkamp’s presence.
"Everyone is saying, ‘What's she doing up here?'" Trump said. "But I'll tell you what — good woman, and I think we'll have your support." Later in his speech he pointedly asked her to support his tax plan.
Some Republicans were probably disappointed that Trump provided Heitkamp with a “sound bite” if she decides to seek re-election in 2018. However, Trump knows he needs Democratic support for his tax plan. He mentioned during his speech a good meeting he had earlier with members of both parties in Congress. This trip to North Dakota was as much about selling his tax plan as it was about explaining it. He also had a favorable audience to make his pitch.
After the speech Heitkamp issued a statement saying she supports tax reform, but noted the details of any bill would determine its fate.
Wednesday’s visit to North Dakota didn’t attract as much national attention as Trump’s May 2016 campaign stop. It’s just one of a number of trips he plans to promote his tax plan. It’s going to be interesting to see if the administration can create a bipartisan coalition to pass the tax bill after the health care defeat.
The nation needs tax reform and Americans have been clamoring for it for years. If Trump and Congress can pass a tax bill it will be something all who support it can use as a campaign issue.
This past week North Dakotans got a taste of the upcoming tax battle. We also got the opportunity to host the president, something that’s a rare event in the state. It was a worthwhile visit.