Anti-Tax Cut Trigger Legislation Introduced In House

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - While the negotiations continue on President Bush's proposed tax package in the Senate, an Arizona Republican lawmaker has introduced legislation in the House that would prevent any type of tax relief legislation enacted by Congress from being contingent on a so-called "tax cut trigger." Triggers stipulate that taxes will be lowered only if Congress does not spend the budget surpluses.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a freshman Republican is sponsoring the anti-trigger legislation.

"Tax cut triggers would put tax relief in jeopardy. With a tax cut trigger, if Congress decided to spend more money, tax relief would quietly disappear, and it would be harder to hold Congress accountable. Triggers simply mean it's easier to raise taxes and it's easier to spend money," Flake told a Capitol Hill news conference.

Flake added, "Growing up on a ranch, I was a big fan of Roy Rogers and his faithful horse, Trigger. Roy Rogers and Trigger were good together-but tax cuts and triggers won't lead to happy trails. If Congress attempts to attach triggers as a condition for tax relief, then I doubt that the American taxpayers are going to be happily riding into the sunset."

Flake's legislation has several co-sponsors - all House Republicans. It has also received support from the National Taxpayers Union, which has launched a nationwide media campaign against triggers.

"If members of Congress are truly concerned about the return to budget deficits, the level of our national debt, or even a sagging stock market, spending triggers are the right remedy. Lawmakers from both parties will be reminded of what most Americans already understand: income tax rate reductions comprise only the first step in delivering the relief and reform taxpayers deserve. For this reason alone, the Senate should pass the President's tax plan, no strings or triggers, attached," NTU Director of Congressional Relations Eric Schlecht said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

One lawmaker supporting Flake's legislation is freshman Indiana Republican Mike Pence. "It is simply astonishing to this Hoosier that Washington, D.C. would introduce a new 'big lie' to the lexicon of big lies in America. And it goes something like this: we will give you a tax cut in case we don't overspend here in Congress. It is an extraordinary example of Congress attempting through the Senate's inclusion of triggers to make tax relief completely illusory."

Pence added, "Members of the United States Senate including a prominent member from my own state who have advocated this, it seems to me, are truly undermining a much needed tax relief we are trying to speed to the American people."

That Indiana senator, Pence was talking about is Sen. Evan Bayh, who has along with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced legislation in the Senate calling for a "trigger" in any tax cut legislation.

Bayh believes, "With a trigger mechanism in place, the first phase of a tax cut would be implemented immediately and be irrevocable. In future years, certain elements of phased-in tax relief would be implemented as long as specified debt-reduction targets are met."

"Our approach combines two important principals of fiscal conservatism," Bayh said. "First, we believe in broad-based tax relief for all Americans. Second, we are committed to balancing the budget and avoiding public debt and deficits."

"Congress should approach the federal budget the same way most American families handle their own finances," Bayh said. "Invest in priorities, save as much as possible for the future, and stay out of debt. The trigger turns a common sense principle into law - 'don't spend it if you don't have it.'"

"A trigger will provide a strong incentive for Congress to act responsibly in the future allocation of the surplus, while also serving as a 'backstop' should estimates prove too optimistic," said Snowe, a member of both the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. "The principles in our resolution provide firm footing on which to develop a trigger mechanism as tax and spending policies are implemented."