Dear Member of Congress:
As you meet this week to lay out your agenda for 2018, we urge you to pursue opportunities that build on the major taxpayer victories of 2017. The monumental tax reform legislation passed in December is already generating a wave of positive economic gains across the country. Numerous corporations have proactively taken steps, as supporters of tax reform asserted they would, to share their newfound competitiveness with employees across their organizations. In the years ahead, most taxpayers will get even more good news as they get to keep more of their own hard-earned dollars and no longer have to spend hour after hour to file their annual returns.
These and other big wins in 2017, such as eliminating the individual mandate and rolling back costly regulations, make the U.S. well positioned for significant economic growth in the years ahead, so long as lawmakers continue to fight for the free-market values that put taxpayers first. Falling back on the failed habits and policies of the past threaten to undermine these gains and squander this important moment to demonstrate that conservative policies work for all Americans.
To that end, National Taxpayers Union (NTU) would bring to your attention five major issues facing taxpayers in 2018:
1) Preserve the earmark moratorium.
The earmark ban of 2011 was a huge victory for taxpayers. Repealing or in any way subverting this achievement under the auspices of so-called “reform” would break trust with taxpayers who elected this Congress to drain the swamp. Earmarks are a source of wasteful spending and a powerful symbol for so much that voters perceive as wrong in Washington. Lawmakers who think a return to earmarks will somehow make it easier to legislate are signalling their support for the vote-trading and excess associated with this outdated practice. The best way to exert Congressional control over federal spending is through the legislative process: using authorizations and appropriations to hold the Executive Branch accountable.
2) Deal with our growing spending and debt crisis.
To avoid imperiling the economic boom from tax reform, it is essential that Congress make tough decisions to reduce outlays and limit additional debt exposure. Any plan to modify the 2011 Budget Control Act’s spending caps and boost expenditures must be paired with more strictly enforceable limits, cuts, and reforms that would secure no less than the $1 trillion in savings taxpayers were promised. Likewise, as Congress approaches the pending debt ceiling threat it should pursue opportunities to achieve budget process reforms that could yield savings, prevent any need for further debt ceiling hikes, and put outlays on a sustainable path. Increased borrowing now to fund our insatiable appetite for spending could necessitate future tax hikes, undoing the good work of 2017.
3) Institute market-based reforms to farm bill.
Continuing our current, special-interest driven agriculture policies would come at far too high a cost to taxpayers. It is past time for Congress to look to market-based reforms. This should include, at a minimum, revising or eliminating the harvest price option and prohibiting “double-dipping” for subsidy programs. We urge Members Congress to carefully and deliberately debate these and other reforms during consideration of the next farm bill.
4) Don’t let infrastructure break the bank.
It’s easy to see how crumbling roads, bridges, levees, and other critical infrastructure projects could quickly add up to big bucks. Still, those needs must be balanced against our very real federal resource constraints. Congress should better prioritizing projects based on more accurate cost-benefit analysis and need, while also exploring opportunities to devolve many federal functions to the states. In addition, a comprehensive infrastructure package should come with reforms that would reduce costs and increase growth in the long run, such as creating user-funded, user-accountable entities in place of government-run services, allowing open competition for materials, eliminating project labor agreements and Davis-Bacon, repealing the Jones Act, ending costly protectionist policies, and adhering to updated flood management guidelines.
5) Don’t walk away from NAFTA.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been one of the crowning achievements of our modern economy. In 2016 alone, NAFTA helped U.S. companies export $262 billion to Mexico and more than $320 billion to Canada. These exports are vital to U.S. jobs in the agriculture, manufacturing, and service sectors. Today’s supply chains are intricately woven between our three countries, boosting efficiency and prosperity. There is much that could be done to update NAFTA, particularly when it comes to taking into account the digital economy. But any attempt to increase tariffs or unravel the best parts of this groundbreaking agreement should be met with fierce opposition from Congress.
As the House prepares to face what will be another packed legislative season, NTU and our partner organization NTU Foundation are ready to be a resource on these and other critical issues. In addition to the issues mentioned above, there is still plenty of work to do in protecting Americans from ACA taxes and mandates, as well as creating a new and better IRS. In the months to come, we look forward to working with your offices to make 2018 yet another banner year for taxpayers.
Pete Sepp, President