GOP Governors Open with Push for Tax Cut

By Hallow, Ralph Z. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 22, 1998 | Go to article overview

GOP Governors Open with Push for Tax Cut


Hallow, Ralph Z., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


*****THE DEBATE OVER USE OF SURPLUS FUNDS PITS BUDGET BALANCING AGAINST GIVING SOMETHING BACK.****

Some of the nation's Republican governors took issue with the Senate GOP leadership yesterday on whether cutting taxes or reducing the federal debt should hold first priority.

"The people of America recognize that a lot of money comes out of their pockets in federal taxes. The time has come for a tax cut," Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III said at a press conference with several other of the nation's 32 GOP governors.

The occasion was the opening day of the annual four-day meeting of the National Governors Association, with the governors in both parties united on issues like transporation and Internet taxation but divided on what to do with the anticipated federal budget surpluses being projected in coming years.

Most of the 17 Democratic governors in the organization tended to agree with President Clinton that the surpluses should be devoted to shoring up the Social Security trust funds.

Most of the Republican governors, however, appeared to be somewhat - in some cases, very much - at odds with the Senate GOP leadership in Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico and other fiscal conservatives want to use the surpluses to begin to retire the federal debt.

But still other Republicans, like Sen. Rod Grams, Minnesota Republican, are pushing for larger tax cuts now and a more gradual debt retirement.

"Having been elected on a pledge to reduce taxes for the working families of my state, the idea that our leadership would so quickly abandon a core principle of the Republican Party is folly of considerable proportions, a decision of political expedience made at the expense of good public policy," Mr. Grams said in a letter to Mr. Lott.

None of the pro-tax cut Republican governors yesterday took so strongly worded a position as that of Mr. Grams, but Mr. Gilmore, who won election last November on a tax-cut pledge, came the closest to that passion.

Mr. Gilmore said both debt reduction and tax cuts are "conservative policies."

"And certainly debt reduction is a good policy if you can do it. But if driven to a choice, I think we should be doing tax reduction," he said.

Like the tax-cut wing of the GOP in the Congress, the Republican governors made it clear yesterday that they think tax cutting is or should be synonymous with the name of their party.

"I'm not sure it is an either/or question," said South Carolina Gov. David Beasley, vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

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