Budget Surplus Still Rising, Hastert Wants Major Tax Cut by July 4th

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

(CNSNews.com) - The Treasury Department said Wednesday the U.S. government's budget surplus rose in January from the same time a year ago. The department's monthly budget statement showed the surplus of income over spending rose to $76.38 billion last month from $62.15 billion in January, 2000. House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Thursday the latest rise indicates Congress should cut taxes by the Fourth of July.

"There's now more evidence on the table about why Congress should cut taxes and cut taxes now to boost our slowing economy and provide Americans better job security," Hastert said in Aurora, Illinois.

Hastert added, "By passing the Social Security-Medicare Lockbox last week in the House and not spending that money on other government programs, we're on course to pay off the public debt. Our next logical step must be to get a majority of the non-Social Security-Medicare surplus out of Washington and into the hands of the American people, those who earned it in the first place."

Hastert set a deadline for Congress to pass tax cuts.

"I strongly support cutting tax rates across-the-board, doubling the Child Tax Credit to $1,000, eliminating the Marriage Tax Penalty, killing the Death Tax entirely and expanding tax incentives for charitable giving, all by Independence Day, 2001," Hastert said.

Legislation to eliminate the Marriage Tax Penalty and the Death Tax were vetoed last year by then-President Bill Clinton.

To those members of Congress and others who oppose tax cuts, Hastert issued a pointed message.

"If we cannot cut taxes now, when can we cut taxes to grow the economy and improve job security?"

America achieved its first budget surplus in 1998 after 29 years of deficits, and budget surpluses have continued since then.

"As Speaker, I'm most proud that this is the fourth year in a row the federal government has been in the black, an unparalleled achievement, not seen since eleven straight surpluses ending in 1930," Hastert said.

President Bush plans to offer his budget proposal next week, which will incorporate his tax cut plans.

But those plans could still face opposition from Democrats. House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) Wednesday said Bush's tax cut plan shortchanges families, by giving "43 percent of the tax break to the top one percent [of taxpayers] and not a single dime to 34.5 million households nationwide.

"His plan further shortchanges families by leaving no room in the budget for Social Security, Medicare prescription coverage, education and other critical priorities," Gephardt said.

"Democrats support fair, responsible tax cuts for every taxpayer, especially middle-income taxpayers. We believe further that tax cuts must be balanced against other critical priorities such as Social Security and Medicare, Medicare prescription benefits and modern public schools, which Democrats and many economists believe are essential to keeping America on the right economic track," Gephardt added.