July 21,2000

Roth: The Time for Family Tax Relief has Come; Senate Votes to Repeal the Marriage Tax Penalty

WASHINGTON -- By a vote of 60 to 34, the Senate today voted to repeal the marriage tax penalty. Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) today delivered the following closing remarks on the Conference Report to H.R. 4810, the Marriage Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2000:

"Mr. President, the provisions in this bill will help 45 million families. That is substantially every family in the U.S. Some of my colleagues have argued that almost half of those families do not deserve any tax relief. I reject that. I reject it because in my home state of Delaware it would mean leaving over 30,000 families that contributed to our ever-growing budget surplus out of family tax relief.

"Today's bill amounts to less than 5 percent of the total budget surplus over the next five years. That is less than a nickel on the dollar of our total budget surplus. It amounts to just 9 percent of the total non-Social Security surplus over the next five years. That is less than a dime on the dollar of the non-Social Security surplus. A nickel and a dime. By any comparison or estimation, this marriage tax relief is fiscally responsible. Those who dispute that are themselves seeking to 'nickel-and-dime' America's families out of tax relief.

"I would ask those who oppose this family tax relief: just how big will America's budget surplus have to get before America's families deserve to receive some of their tax dollars back? If not now, when? If just 5 percent of the budget surplus and just 9 percent of the tax overpayment is too big a refund, how little should it be? How long do they have to wait? How hard do they have to work? How large an overpayment do they have to make?

"This bill is fair. We have addressed the three largest sources of marriage tax penalties in the tax code - the standard deduction, the rate brackets, and the earned income credit. We have done so in a way that does not create any new penalties - any new disincentives in the tax code. We have ensured that a family with one stay-at-home parent is not treated worse for tax purposes than a family where both parents work outside the home. This is an important principle because these are important families.

"And finally, we have made this tax relief immediate for the current year. That means when a couple files their tax return next April, they will be able to see and feel the results of our work. As a result, I believe that we should call this bill the ASAP tax relief bill for America's taxpayers - tax relief for America's families now.

"Mr. President, despite the red flags thrown up by those who want to stand in the way of marriage tax relief, this bill actually makes the tax code more progressive. As a result, families with incomes under $100,000 will receive a proportionally larger tax cut.

"There is no honest way people can claim that this bill is tilted towards the rich. I believe that the real complaint of those who oppose this bill is not that it is tilted towards the rich - because it is not - but because it is tilted away from Washington.

"And while I would rather have seen the 28 percent bracket doubling included in the bill, its absence does do one thing. Its absence removes any excuse for the President not to sign this bill. If President Clinton does not sign this bill, then there is only one explanation. No matter how much the amount of surplus, no matter how much the of the tax overpayment, no matter how high the overall tax burden, and no matter how much families deserve tax relief, it is all less important to him than the fact that Washington wants the money more.

"Mr. President, the time for excuses has passed, the time for family tax relief has come. Yet some in the White House still disagree. Yesterday I received a letter from Treasury Secretary Summers in which he tried to raise two new excuses that are as transparent as they are late.

"First, he tried to over-estimate the cost of the tax relief passed by Congress this year. Despite his exaggerated figures, when Congress sends this bill to the President it, along with the other bills we have passed, comprise just $120 billion worth of tax relief over the next five years.

"Second, there is only one bill before us today and there will be only one bill when it arrives on his desk: family tax relief. And when we look at this bill, we need to look at its actual provisions -- not some concocted estimate of what another Congress and another President will do. Congress' official estimator scores this bill at under $90 billion for both five and ten years. That is the accurate figure and that is the appropriate measure of the tax relief before us today.

"Despite what the President's advisers may wish, the issue is whether he will or won't grant America's families the tax relief they have earned. Let's approve the Marriage Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2000 and let's divorce the marriage tax penalty from the tax code once and for all."