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Trump likely to propose 15% tax rate for all businesses, not just corporations

As it is shaping up, President Trump's new tax plan sounds a lot like his old one.

A Trump administration official told CNN on Tuesday that Trump may propose a major tax cut for so-called "pass-through businesses" from 39.6% to 15%.

That comes on the heels of news that Trump is also considering a big reduction in the top rate for corporations from 35% to 15%.

Trump is planning to announce a tax plan on Wednesday, though it is expected to be more of an outline and not rich in detail.

The vast majority of businesses in the United States are set up as pass-throughs. They run the gamut from mom-and-pop shops to law firms and hedge funds.

A pass-through isn't taxed under the corporate code. Instead it passes its profits through to its owners, shareholders and partners, who then report those profits on their individual tax returns.

A 15% top rate for corporations and pass throughs would be drastically lower than today's rates and lower than the top rate for ordinary wage income called for under the House Republicans' tax reform proposal, as well as the plan Trump proposed last year. It remains unclear what Trump will propose on Wednesday about individual tax rates.

But a big disparity between business and wage rates worries policy experts. Why? Owners of pass-throughs who also work at those firms will be tempted to recharacterize their paychecks as "business" income to get the lower tax rate.

Such a dramatic rate cut would also likely set up a clash with Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.

While they are eager to cut business taxes, for various reasons they don't want to add to the country's debt. And a 15% business tax rate could drive up deficits by a lot.

For example, the Tax Policy Center estimated in November that Trump's 15% proposal for corporations and pass-throughs, coupled with a repeal of the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax, could reduce revenue by nearly $4 trillion in the first decade.

To put that in context, that's close to $400 billion a year -- which is more than the $304 billion the government spent last year on income security programs such as food stamps, unemployment benefits and child nutrition, according to numbers from the Congressional Budget Office.

The price tag could be somewhat less if Trump chose not to repeal the corporate AMT. But if he didn't, that would greatly undercut the value of the rate reduction to 15% for many corporations because they would have a higher tax bill under the AMT, said Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center.

The TPC was working off a plan from the Trump campaign that was thin on details. So absent those, it's hard to do a more tailored cost estimate.

But it's very fair to assume the cost of reducing the top business tax rate will be high.

Administration officials cautioned that nothing is final. And sources told CNN that Wednesday's announcement is not likely to offer much explanation for how tax reductions would be paid for.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said, however, that Trump's tax plan would be paid for through economic growth. Experts throw cold water on that idea, since there is no evidence that tax cuts pay for themselves.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Trump wants to include a 15% corporate and pass-through rate in Wednesday's announcement.

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch on Monday said that a 15% corporate tax rate would be problematic because it would increase the deficit and run into parliamentary problems if Republicans try to pass their tax bill under a procedure that lets them avoid a filibuster.

"I'd love to do that. [But] I'm not sure we can get them down that low," Hatch said when asked about the proposed rate.

-- CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Jim Acosta and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

Orange County property appraiser Rick Singh announces libel lawsuit

Orange County property appraiser Rick Singh announced Tuesday morning that he is teaming up with Morgan & Morgan to file a libel lawsuit against the individuals responsible for the alleged smear ads that were sent out during the campaign season.

Singh, attorney Belvin Perry and attorney Frank Kruppenbacher hosted a media event at the Morgan & Morgan building in downtown Orlando at 11:30 a.m.

The lawsuit alleges that political action committees and other unnamed parties spent $3.4 million on mailers, television ads and other materials to spread falsehoods about Singh between Sept. 1 and the Nov. 8 election.

"It's an issue that strikes at the very heart of our democracy. This is a classic example, not of fake news, but news that is told that is malicious and false," Perry said.

Kruppenbacher said these materials publicized bogus claims that Singh was arrested in 1988, that a judgment was entered against Singh in 1993 and that Singh changed his named to Rick for "a number of nefarious purposes, all of which are untrue."

Singh filed the lawsuit as a private citizen, meaning no tax dollars will be spent on the legal battle. The complaint asks for in excess of $25,000 in damages. Attorneys said the monetary damages, if collected, would be donated to charity. 

Up to six defendants will be named in the lawsuit within the next 90 days. Kruppenbacher would not say if any of the local theme parks, including Disney World and SeaWorld, would be named as part of the lawsuit.

"I do think economics is the motive behind trying to take out a property appraiser with this kind of money," Kruppenbacher said.

Attorneys said the main goal of this lawsuit is to uncover who invested millions of dollars into the smear campaign, why they would do so and if they planned to alter the course of the election.

“When you have that kind of money put into a race – it begs that questions – if you’re willing to invest $3.4 (million), what is your return? People don’t invest that kind of money unless they expect some sort of return,” Perry said.

Perry said the ultimate goal is to stop the "foolishness" that goes into hurling untrue accusations in order to tip elections.

Kruppenbacher added that this lawsuit is the first of its kind in Florida.

“This is the first case, I think, with a defined effort to identify who wrote it, who funded it," Kruppenbacher said.

Singh also said the lawsuit does not mean he is planning to run for Orange County mayor, which some have speculated in the past few weeks.

"Is that the right office for me? I don't know at this time. So again, it's all speculative. It's all a tough decision," Singh said. "I'm flattered that the citizens of Orange County have put my name into the list of many names that have been named. So right now, it's still an ongoing process for me."

Poll: Trump approval even worse with millennials

With President Donald Trump's 100th day in office looming in the distance, only 32 percent of millennials approve of his performance so far, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics.

About 40% said they would give Trump an "F" on his first 100 days, and only a third said they support his handling of ISIS and Obamacare.

The survey, which included more than 2,500 responses from 18- to 29-year-olds, found that millennials scored Trump's performance lower than the general public does. With Trump's national approval rating already lower than any modern president, the poll reveals another layer of dissatisfaction with the new administration.

Nearly 70% of young people, regardless of political ideology, said Trump's tweeting is "not appropriate" and expressed reservations about cracking down too hard on immigration and jettisoning Obamacare.

However, a near majority of the respondents -- 48% -- identified as most closely aligning with the Democratic Party, so it's unsurprising that they disagree with many of Trump's policy positions. Twenty-eight percent said they align more with Republicans, and the rest did not see themselves as aligning with a party.

Most millennials polled expressed a renewed commitment to uniting America and found politics more relevant to their lives than they did five years ago. Seventy-four percent of those polled saw voting as the most effective way to create change, and they saw talking about politics and volunteering as important as well.

"While we spend a lot of time talking about what divides us, younger millennials are seeking leaders who will unite us," polling director John Della Volpe said in a news release. "This is both good government and good politics, and it is the overarching message from our last year of polling, town meetings and conversations with millennials from across the country."

When it came to the media, only 10% gave mainstream outlets an "A" for their coverage of Trump's presidency so far. Nearly half of respondents said they believe the news on their Facebook news feeds is "fake news."

The poll is just one of many released this week revealing a historic low in presidential support. Fifty-three percent of people in an ABC News/Washington Post poll said they disapprove of Trump's performance so far, while an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed 54% saying they disapprove. Gallup's historical presidential approval numbers show most presidents were near the height of their popularity in the beginning of their first terms.

But don't expect these results to sway Trump as he approaches the 100-day mark. He seized on two polls' findings in a pair of tweets Sunday afternoon, saying: "New polls out today are very good considering that much of the media is FAKE and almost always negative. Would still beat Hillary in ... popular vote. ABC News/Washington Post Poll (wrong big on election) said almost all stand by their vote on me & 53% said strong leader."

SpaceX completes static test fire ahead of classified satellite launch

Kennedy Space Center saw smoke and fire Tuesday as SpaceX completed a pre-launch check known as a "static test fire" ahead of a planned Sunday liftoff.

Smoke billowed from pad 39A shortly after 3 p.m. as the company's Falcon 9 rocket, lifted vertical and fueled, briefly fired its nine Merlin main engines. SpaceX confirmed the test completion via Twitter.

The test fires are critical checks that allow teams to run through practice countdowns, usually several days before a planned launch.

Sunday's launch, referred to as NROL-76, is SpaceX's first dedicated mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. Secured atop the Falcon 9 rocket will be a classified intelligence satellite scheduled to launch during a window that opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 9 a.m., reported News 6 partner Florida Today.

The first stage of the rocket is expected to land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Landing Zone 1 shortly after liftoff.

SpaceX is also targeting May 15 for the launch of a British commercial communications satellite named Inmarsat-1 and no earlier than May 31 for its eleventh resupply mission to the International Space Station. Both missions will launch from KSC on Falcon 9 rockets.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook at @EmreKelly.

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