- - Thursday, October 24, 2019

Washington hosted a big celebration on Wednesday. No, I am not talking about the World Series — the Nationals don’t play at home until Friday night. The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) celebrated its 50th anniversary this week.

In 1969, a 22-year-old former Nixon campaign volunteer by the name of James Dale Davidson founded the group because he believed the taxpayers needed a voice in Washington, D.C., and the establishment had not given them one. Ever since then, the NTU has been the taxpayers’ lobbyist in our federal, state and local governments.

The San Francisco Chronicle called the National Taxpayers Union “the granddaddy” of the taxpayer movement. In 1988, Washington Monthly called NTU one of the “Best Public Interest Groups” in our nation’s capital because of its effectiveness fighting for fiscal responsibility.

NTU led the charge for a Balanced Budget Amendment during the 1970s and 1980s. They got it passed in the Senate in 1982, then in the House in 1995. As frequent readers of this column know, passing a Balanced Budget Amendment is a passion of mine with the national debt approaching $30 trillion by 2025.

The National Taxpayers Union fought against waste in the federal government in several ways:



• They led a coalition that helped enact legislation creating the modern Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process to eliminate unnecessary military facilities.

• They exposed lavish pensions for federal employees and members of Congress then worked to pass the Federal Employees’ Retirement Act.

• They have published a scorecard on fiscal policy for members of Congress for more than 30 years.

• They got a Taxpayer Bill of Rights passed as part of the Technical and Miscellaneous Revenue Act and another one passed to help taxpayers deal with the system.

• They helped overhaul the Internal Revenue Service.

• They helped create a Tea Bag Revolution to fight a 51 percent pay increase for Congress.

• They worked on a number of taxpayer-friendly initiatives over the years at the state level — including Proposition 13 in California.

Since the National Taxpayers Union was founded, the top income tax rate has fallen from 77 percent to 37 percent. The lowest rate fell from 14 percent to 10 percent.

President Ronald Reagan commemorated NTU’s work at their 15-year anniversary, writing that NTU’s “support for across-the-board tax rate reduction and income tax indexing helped pave the way for congressional adoption of these important reforms.” The tax cuts passed during the Reagan presidency helped spur an economic recovery which lasted long after he left office.

NTU has lobbied successfully on all major tax legislation during its history, including the Reagan tax cuts (the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 and the Tax Reform Act of 1986), the Bush tax cuts (the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003), to the Trump tax cuts (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.)

In addition to fighting for lower tax cuts and against tax increases, NTU continues to push for reforms that save taxpayers money through overall policy. NTU also has an aggressive plan — called the Cornerstone Project — to more aggressively fight for the taxpayers at the state and local level.

The National Taxpayers Union will continue to be the leading advocate for the hard-working taxpayers of America in our nation’s capital, but they are broadening their reach in statehouses across the country. Now, more than ever, taxpayers need a voice in our state capitals.

I am proud of our record in Wisconsin. The overall tax burden on the people of my state has gone down by more than $13 billion since 2011. Property and income taxes are lower than before I took office as governor and, with the help of the state legislature, we actually eliminated the state property tax. During the decade before we took office, property taxes had gone up by 27 percent. Our dramatic tax relief over the past eight years played a key role in our unemployment rate going from 9.3 percent in 2010 to below the historic low of 3 percent over the past several years.

My neighbor Illinois is a good example of a state going in the opposite direction — particularly this year. According to one source, some 20 tax increases and fees total $4.6 billion worth of new costs to Illinois taxpayers starting in 2019. Over the past few years, the Land of Lincoln has seen the largest exodus in the population of any state in America. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

All the more reason we need an aggressive advocate for the taxpayers — in the states as well as in our nation’s capital. With the National Taxpayers Union now celebrating a half-century of existence, we need them to be even more active — at all levels — during the next 50 years ago and beyond.

• Scott Walker served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him @ScottWalker.

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