South Dakota could have outsize influence on the congressional conference committee that is resolving differences between House and Senate tax-reform legislation, with three people who were born and raised in the state appointed to the 29-member group.

Two members of the state’s congressional delegation, Sen. John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem, are on the committee, making South Dakota one of seven states with at least two lawmakers on the roster. Another member of the committee, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, was born in Vermillion and raised in Rapid City.

All three are Republicans who will bring similar views to the negotiations, but there are numerous differences in the House and Senate bills, and Noem in particular has indicated a willingness to press for specific items.

One such item is the House bill’s eventual repeal of the estate tax, aka “death tax,” on large inheritances. The Senate bill would not repeal the estate tax but would double the current exemption so that estates worth up to $11 million could be passed to heirs tax-free.

Noem’s view on the issue is colored by her family history. Her father died in a farm accident, and she has said her family suffered from the application of the estate tax. In a news release about her appointment to the conference committee, Noem’s office described her as “a leading voice in support of the Death Tax repeal.”

The release also said Noem will focus on increasing the child tax credit, preserving the child care credit, excluding the Indian Health Service’s Student Loan Repayment program from tax, and including pro-agriculture provisions related to interest deductions and expenses.

“While there are differences between the two versions, I’m optimistic we’re coming at this with a united front, striving for the same vision of stronger families and a stronger future for all Americans,” Noem said in a written statement on her appointment to the conference committee.

Thune’s news release on his appointment to the committee focused less on specific provisions and more on overall goals, but he did highlight several items of importance.

“Both chambers have outlined our priorities, which include doubling the standard deduction, expanding the child tax credit, lowering tax rates for all taxpayers, particularly low- and middle-income Americans, and reforming our business tax code,” Thune’s statement said.

In his weekly column and in a recent speech on the Senate floor, Thune framed the two pieces of legislation as the culmination of a long struggle for tax reform, and he stressed the importance of putting a bill on the president’s desk while acknowledging that the bill will not be perfect.

“With Congress poised to pass the first major tax reform legislation in more than three decades, I believe we’re about to take one of those historic steps that will mark a critical point in America’s history,” Thune said, “and I’m excited about what it means for South Dakotans.”

Brady, who graduated from Rapid City Central High School and the University of South Dakota and worked as a chamber of commerce executive in Rapid City before moving to Texas, is the chairman of the conference committee.

Like Thune, Brady has focused his public statements on the importance of resolving differences and sending a bill to the president.

“This is our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver on our tax reform promise,” Brady said in a written statement. “I’m excited to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate on a plan we can send to President Trump this year.”

Some of the conference committee’s work is happening behind closed doors, and there is no definitive schedule or deadline. Noem said Thursday during a teleconference with reporters that there could be a formal, public meeting of the committee this coming week, and she hopes a bill will be signed into law before Christmas.

Both the House and Senate bills would provide large tax cuts to corporations and more modest cuts for families and individuals. Although some estimates say the tax cuts could add at least $1 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years, some Republican proponents of the bill insist that the cuts will generate enough economic growth to eliminate the impact on the debt.

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