PolitiFact Florida On Rubio's Tax Credit Claims; Andrew Gillum On Sanctuary Cities

Dec 29, 2017
Originally published on December 29, 2017 1:14 am

Is the only tax that half the voters in the country pay the payroll tax? That's what U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said. We tackle that claim and another by Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum wants the entire state to be a "sanctuary" for people in the country illegally.

The Republican tax bill has been dominating the news out of Washington lately. Florida Senator Marco Rubio got his two cents in, working to expand the child tax credit. But one comment he made caught the ear of PolitiFact Florida.

He made this comment to CBS4 in Miami:  "We have to make (the child tax credit) refundable against the payroll tax," Rubio said in a Nov. 26 sit-down with CBS4’s Jim DeFede. "Close to half of the voters in America, the only tax they pay is the payroll tax."

Half the voters pay only payroll tax? Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

For the most part, payroll taxes are one of two things: deductions from an employee’s paycheck, and taxes paid by the employer based on the employee's earnings. The payroll tax is a big money generator for the government and is used for social programs, such as Medicare and Social Security.

We were not able to identify an exact percentage of Americans (or voters) who only pay the payroll tax, and Rubio’s office didn’t provide any evidence to back his specific claim.

We did find one estimate from the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center relating to Americans that pay taxes on their income. The center estimated that 44 percent of households paid no federal income tax in 2016. In a subsequent report using the same estimates, the center said about 60 percent of people who paid no income tax still worked and owed payroll taxes.

Based on the center’s estimates, this means about a quarter of all households pay payroll taxes, but not income taxes. That’s half as large as what Rubio said.

So where does Rubio’s factoid come from? Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas pointed to research from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation that shows the vast majority of workers pay more in payroll taxes than they do income taxes. (The data behind the analysis came from the Tax Policy Center and the Congressional Budget Office.)

Specifically, it found that about 80 percent of American taxpayers pay more in payroll taxes than in individual income taxes. (Keep in mind, though, that the bottom 40 percent of earners pay no individual income tax.)

Len Burman, a Tax Policy Center fellow, said that 76 percent of taxpayers in 2017 owe more payroll taxes than income taxes if you include the employer portion of the tax.

If you only consider the employee portion of the payroll tax, Burman said, 54 percent of households owe more payroll tax than income tax.

Rubio garbled the specific percentage, as the closest estimate we could find shows that about one-quarter of all households in 2016 paid the payroll tax but not the income tax.

However, experts said that the point Rubio was trying to make  — that for most people, the burden of the payroll tax exceeds that of the income tax — is correct.

We rate this claim Half True.

In our next ruling, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow is running for governor, and he's ramping up his rhetoric on the campaign trail.

At a recent campaign stop in Jacksonville, Putnam told the crowd that one of his Democratic opponents - Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum - wants to prevent the deportation of immigrants in the country illegally.

"There’s a candidate running for governor who wants to make Florida not a sanctuary city, but a sanctuary state," Putnam said. "That’s crazy talk."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

Putnam’s team pointed to a tweet and multiple news articles where Gillum criticized President Donald Trump’s January 2017 executive order to penalize cities that don't comply with federal immigration agents by withholding federal funds.

The next day, Gillum took to Twitter and posted a lengthy statement to attack Trump’s decision as "inconsistent with our highest values," adding the United States can "protect national security interests and have a secure border without criminalizing people who are here undocumented."

Those examples didn’t show Gillum calling for a statewide sanctuary law or policy similar, so we asked the Gillum campaign for more insight on what he wants to do.

"The commissioner accused Andrew of something that he never said," spokesman Geoff Burgan told PolitiFact Florida. 

As Tallahassee mayor, Burgan said that Gillum was clear that local law enforcement agencies are not Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. In other words, Gillum believes local law enforcement should be focused on enforcing the laws of their city, not deporting undocumented immigrants.

Gillum’s campaign website says that he will "continue to fight mass deportation policies" and calls for an end to Trump’s attack on "cities friendly to immigrants." 

"Andrew believes that a decision between security or compassionate immigration policy are false choices; we can have them both," it reads. "As Governor, Andrew will use every effort to protect Florida from President Trump’s attacks on immigrants."

As mayor of Tallahassee, Gillum criticized Trump’s executive order threatening to suspend funding to sanctuary cities, and Gillum’s campaign said as governor he would support an approach like in Tallahassee that emphasizes immigration enforcement as a federal responsibility, not a local one. But Gillum has not offered a specific statewide policy for not cooperating with detainer requests from immigration enforcement officials. His position is murkier than Putnam describes.

We rate this claim Half True.

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