- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2000

The axiom that once in place, a tax is forever was borne out again last week. The Republican-controlled Senate refused to support the idea of temporarily lifting (let alone eliminating) either the 4.3-cents-per-gallon Clinton/Gore tax on gasoline, or the longer-standing 14.1-cents-per-gallon federal tax that, together, have helped push the price of motor fuel to nearly $2 per gallon in some places. The only good news, if there is any, is that there is at least some support for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in remote Alaska to oil exploration. But even that is apt to be killed over bogeyman environmentalism notwithstanding the fact that modern extraction techniques are both safe and clean, and that the risk to wildlife, such as caribou and elk, remote.

Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott has faced an uphill battle since proposing a temporary lifting of the 4.3-cent tax several weeks ago. But with the votes against him now running almost 2-1, it's depressingly clear that taxpayers who are paying exorbitant taxes at levels not seen since the height of World War II may not get relief, not even 4.3 cents worth. Mr. Lott has said he intends to continue the fight and will push for approval of his bill next week irrespective of the odds against him.

The disturbing thing about all this is that if a Republican-controlled House and Senate can't come through with even a 4.3-cent tax cut and a temporary one at that what chance is there of a substantive tax cut's being enacted? If lawmakers can't gin up the will to eliminate even a teensy-weensy tax that's inconsequential (blather about lost revenue for road construction is disingenuous; there are monster surpluses available to provide for any need), you'd have to be more optimistic than Don Quixote to believe an income-tax reduction, or something serious like that, is just around the corner.

It's dispiriting to contemplate all this as elections loom just a few months from now. Voters will doubtless hear promises about less government and lower taxes. But promises don't seem to have the durability of taxes.

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