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Delaware Senate advances union dues tax deduction bill

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

The State Senate voted on Thursday to allow union members to claim up to a $500 tax deduction to cover the cost of their union dues.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – with backing from the Trump Administration – eliminated a similar federal tax deduction for union members, though the law preserved the deduction for a few scattered categories of union workers, including those in the army reserves.

State Sen. Nicole Poore says her bill would simply restore the deduction on the state level, and it would sunset when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act expires in 2026.

“Until that time, we need to do something for Delawareans," she said. "It’s not just about the labor force you think of as skilled labor – it’s about our teachers, our auto mechanics, our state employees.”

The bill received bipartisan support, though some Republicans argue it would privilege union members over other workers by subsidizing their membership.

The benefit would only be available to workers who itemize their deductions; Delaware’s Department of Finance estimates that only a third of the state’s 38,000 union members itemize their deductions, and it expects the bill would cost the state roughly $300,000 in tax revenue annually.

Senate Minority Whip Brian Pettyjohn also argued that it might be unfair to offer the deduction to union members and not to Delaware workers who pay for professional licenses.

“Are those individuals who have to pay for professional licenses — because they’re an engineer — able to claim a deduction on their Delaware or federal taxes for that license?" he asked.

Senate Democrats responded they would welcome legislation to provide similar deductions for professional licensing costs.

The bill passed with bipartisan support and now heads to the House.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.