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House Speaker Paul Ryan campaigns for Kroger, ice cream, Chabot and tax cuts

Not necessarily in that order
Posted: 5:05 PM, May 31, 2018
Updated: 2018-05-31 21:05:27Z

SPRINGDALE, Ohio - House Speaker Paul Ryan participated in a town hall event at The Kroger Co.'s Ice Cream and Beverage Plant in Springdale Thursday to praise the company for sharing a portion of its annual savings from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act with its employees.

“This is what we were thinking about when we passed this tax reform,” Ryan said. “Businesses would invest in their employees. Businesses would raise wages. Businesses would raise benefits.”

Kroger announced in April that it would invest about $130 million a year on an expanded package of employee benefits, including tuition reimbursement of up to 3,500 and a larger 401(k) match. The increased investment represents about a third of the annual tax savings Kroger expects from the tax reform bill passed by Congress in December.

“Kroger has been very innovative in the way they are using the tax relief,” said Cincinnati Congressman Steve Chabot. “A lot of it is going right back into their employees.”

Here is a summary of the expanded benefits:

  • Kroger is expanding the reach of an education benefit it launched in 2010 by increasing the annual benefit available to part-timers from $1,500 to $3,500 and applying the benefit to training certificates, online degrees and other kinds of continuing education that weren’t previously covered. The company expects a five-fold increase in spending on education assistance. It wouldn’t say what Kroger spends now.
  • Kroger is increasing its 401(k) match to 5 percent, up a percentage point, starting June 1.
  • Kroger is expanding the use of a 10 percent employee discount on it offers on its private-label products, known as Our Brands. Last year, the discount saved employees a combined $53 million. It will now be offered in all stores and apply to an expanded list of products.
  • Kroger is expanding its internal support program, Helping Hands, which provided $700,000 last year to 1,100 employees impacted by hurricanes. Kroger is boosting its annual allotment for the program to $5 million, up from $2 million in prior years.

Beyond corporate benefits, Chabot and Ryan asserted that a typical Cincinnati family of four is paying $2,000 less in annual taxes because of tax reform. Unlike corporate tax relief, many tax benefits for individuals are set to expire by 2027. When an employee asked whether those cuts will be made permanent, Ryan responded: "Obviously we want to keep all this permanent. No two ways about it."