- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 11, 2002

American taxpayers waited nearly 20 years for the meaningful tax relief that was signed into law on June 7 of last year. President Bush and members of Congress worked together to pass a strong, nonpartisan tax- relief bill, and, as a result, Americans are paying less in taxes yet, federal taxes on American families continue to exceed historical levels.

Federal revenues have remained stable, ranging from 18 to 20 percent of Net National Product (NNP) for virtually the entire period since World War II. But the huge tax increase enacted by President Clinton in 1993 raised taxes well above this range. Taxes climbed to 21.3 percent of national income by 1996 and an incredible 23.3 percent by 2000, higher than during the height of World War II.

The two tax cuts adopted by Mr. Bush slowed the ever-increasing tax legacy of Mr. Clinton and brought that burden back toward its historical average. But even with the Bush tax cuts, federal taxes will still consume about 21.5 percent of national income, well above the historical range, leaving American taxpayers with a burden not experienced since fighting a full-scale, two-front war.

Countless economists, including Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, have confirmed Mr. Bush's tax cut served as an effective stimulus that lessened the impact of the recession. Due to a temporary slowdown of tax revenues stemming from the recession, however, some members of Congress have called for suspending this much- needed tax relief, while others have gone as far to call for increasing taxes on America's workers and businesses.

Opponents of tax cuts have seized every opportunity possible to reach endlessly into Americans' pockets to fund increased spending. Yet, the four largest tax increases since 1980 in 1982, 1987, 1990 and the largest ever in 1993 all would have failed if a two-thirds supermajority had been required.

The standard supermajority requirement is reserved for the most important of issues, including amending the Constitution, impeaching the president and ratifying international treaties. The same standard of importance should be used when deciding to take more money from the American people.

To make this a reality, a bipartisan group of House members led by Reps. Pete Sessions and Ralph Hall have joined together to introduce the Tax Limitation Amendment to the Constitution, which will be voted on this week. The amendment requires a two-thirds supermajority for any new tax or increase in existing taxes.

Many experts on our economy believe requiring a supermajority vote contributes to stronger economic growth and lower taxes over time. In fact, evidence at the state level proves this theory correct. States that have passed tax-limitation amendments show greater economic growth and better job creation, and an analysis of the nine states that have had tax limitation mechanisms in place since 1993 shows a very clear trend. Economic growth (as measured by per capita, gross state product) was 10 percent higher in states with tax-limitation and employment growth was 20 percent higher, as compared to all other states.

Two new studies also confirm that supermajority requirements are effective at reducing state tax revenues. One study finds that taxes as percentage of state income are lower in states that have enacted supermajority requirements. Another study, by Michael New of Stanford University, found that annual growth of state tax revenue is lower in states that have supermajority requirements. This effect is even stronger for states whose supermajority requirements pertain to all forms of tax increases.

The vote this week on the Tax Limitation Amendment is crucial to protect American taxpayers. A two-thirds supermajority standard would require members of Congress to be more fiscally responsible with the money available by making it more difficult for Congress to reach endlessly into Americans' pockets to fund increased spending.

A two-thirds supermajority would increase economic growth, while significantly slowing the amount of taxes working families' pay to the government. Most importantly, as the nation moves to reform our antiquated and onerous tax code, this constitutional protection must be included to prevent tax-cut opponents from continually attempting to raise our taxes and fund their big government agenda.

Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.

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