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Reckless Spending Drives Congress's Fiscal Ratings Down, Taxpayer Group's Non-Partisan Scorecard Shows
For Immediate Release March 17, 2005
(Alexandria, VA) -- Failure to enact budget process reform or control federal spending last year were just two reasons why lawmakers' fiscal voting records eroded considerably, according to the widely-anticipated annual Rating of Congress released today by the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU). The Rating, based on hundreds of roll call votes, is considered the most comprehensive scorecard available on federal tax, spending, and regulatory issues.
"When it came to rolling back big government last year, Congress took the wrong direction: big government did the rolling while most lawmakers did the backing," said NTU President John Berthoud. "To improve their NTU Ratings for 2005, Congress will need to confront serious budget deficits with some equally serious spending discipline."
In 2004, the average pro-taxpayer score in the House of Representatives fell to 39 percent -- a sharp six- point drop from 2003's level. Averages took a shorter dive in the Senate, to 45 percent in 2004 from 47 percent the year before. The worst averages for the 25-year-plus history of the comprehensive NTU scorecard were posted in 1988, when they plummeted to 27 percent and 28 percent, respectively, for the House and Senate. The highest marks were reached in 1995, when House and Senate averages were 58 percent and 57 percent, respectively.
Unlike those of other organizations, NTU's annual Rating does not simplistically focus on only a handful of equally-weighted "key votes." For this reason, it has received praise from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including former Senator (and "Golden Fleece Award" creator) William Proxmire (D-WI). The Rating is based on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy (182 House and 93 Senate votes for 2004), and assigns a "Taxpayer Score" to each Member of Congress that indicates his or her commitment to reducing or controlling federal spending, taxes, debt, and regulation.
During 2004, 59 lawmakers attained Taxpayer Scores sufficient for a grade of "A" (78 percent in the Senate and 74 percent in the House), and hence were eligible for the "Taxpayers' Friend Award" -- a major improvement over the 29 who earned top grades in 2003. However, the trend worsened on the other end of the scale -- 230 Senators and Representatives captured the title of "Big Spender" for posting "F" grades in 2004 (versus 185 the year before). For 2004, the "F" threshold in both chambers was a score of 19 percent or lower.
The ranks of best and worst scorers contained familiar names from previous NTU Ratings. For the second year in a row, the top House performer was Jeff Flake (R-AZ), with 90 percent (ahead of Ron Paul (R-TX) by a fraction of a point). Likewise, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) led his chamber for the second year running, at 89 percent (also edging out his nearest competitor, Jon Kyl (R-AZ), by less than a percentage point). Both Paul and Kyl have earned the number one spot in past years. While Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA) made his first appearance as the lowest scorer in NTU's House Rating (6 percent), Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) once again had the worst total in the Senate (7 percent). From 1979 through 2004, Inouye has placed dead last in NTU's Senate Rating seven times, and has finished among the bottom ten scorers in his chamber for 21 of the last 26 Ratings.
The 350,000-member NTU is a non-partisan citizen organization working for lower taxes, less wasteful spending, and accountable government at all levels. Note: The 2004 Rating, and a searchable Rating database from the years 1992-2004, are both available online at www.ntu.org.