The case for Constitutional Tax Limitation




  Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Representatives Joe Barton (R-TX) and John Shadegg (R-AZ), Ralph Hall (D-TX) and Virgil Goode (D-VA) have introduced in the U.S. Congress a Tax Limitation Amendment (TLA) to the Constitution of the United States of America, requiring a two-thirds supermajority for any new tax or increase in existing taxes. House and Senate leadership have promised to have votes on this amendment every year as close as possible to April 15 until it passes.
A. Supermajority Voting Is the Best Way to Stop Tax Increase
Under the current rules, previous Congresses have been incapable of restraining their taxing and spending. The empirical evidence is compelling. The United States ran a chronic budget deficit for over 30 years. These deficits were the result of Congresses that spent too much, not because they taxed too little. During the post-World War II era, while total government revenues as a share of Gross Domestic Product deviated little from approximately 19 percent, spending has risen continuously, averaging 18 percent in the 1950s, 19 percent in the 1960s, and 21 percent in the 1970s, to a range of 22 to 25 percent over the past 10 years.
Congress has historically managed to avoid spending cuts and has increased tax revenue by some maneuver to provide political cover. For instance, in both 1990 and 1993 Congress voted to raise taxes in the guise of omnibus budget laws that were described as deficit reduction acts. As we now face a budget surplus for the first time in a generation, it is not unreasonable to assume that a future Congress would wish to use tax increases to avoid having to make the choice of spending cuts, in the name of keeping the budget balanced. As we move from an era of chronic budget deficits to an era of budget surpluses, it is more important than ever to restrain the Congressional appetite for increasing taxes to offset revenue shortfalls or new spending initiatives.
B. Two Alternative Ways to Implement a Supermajority
1. Parliamentary Point of Order
There are several mechanisms which Congress may use to require a supermajority vote for the passage of tax increases. One is the adoption of a parliamentary point of order. Under such a rule, any member of Congress would be entitled to raise a point of order with the Speaker of the House or President of the Senate when a bill or amendment is believed to raise taxes. Provided the bill was interpreted by the parliamentarian as raising taxes, the point of order would lie, requiring a supermajority to approve the legislation.
The adoption of a rule allowing a point of order is exactly what the House of Representatives did on the very first day of the 104th Congress, when it adopted House Rule XXI with its requirement that federal income tax rate increases shall not be "considered as passed" unless agreed to by three-fifths (60 percent) of the members voting. This rule, however, does not provide permanent tax limitation. Such a rule can be adopted or repealed by a majority vote at the start of each new Congress. Consequently, point-of-order tax limitation will be subject to the vagaries of the Congressional balance of power. Further, under House rules, a rule triggering a special point of order can be waived whenever political considerations favor increasing government revenues.
2. Adoption of Legislation Requiring Two-Thirds Support for All Tax Increases
Congress could, if it chose to do so, pass legislation that requires a two-thirds vote for adoption of tax increases. However, in previous cases where Congress has required that certain measures be adopted by a supermajority vote, it has circumvented such requirements in order to avoid an actual vote. This is usually accomplished by hiding the tax increase measure in a comprehensive piece of legislation. In both the 1990 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA 1990) and the 1993 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA 1993), tax increases were tucked into a wider package of deficit-reduction provisions. Consequently, members of Congress were able to raise taxes by claiming they were actually voting for popular deficit reduction. Additionally, closed rules limit the opportunities of representatives to amend a given bill. Their use allows members of Congress to claim to favor policies and profess that they were unable to vote for them because the rule did not allow them to amend the bill.
These deceptive voting practices severely injure the functioning of representative democracy. Voters find it difficult to make informed judgments about what their representatives are actually doing. Informed judgments that are the heart of the periodic electoral review that the Founding Fathers had in mind when they provided for the direct election of House members by the people. The widespread use of hidden procedures by members of Congress strongly suggests that members perceive they have something to hide.
Legislative supermajority tax limitation carries with it the same problems as a rule triggering a point of order. With each new Congress, or even in a sitting Congress with special elections, the tax limitation law would once again be subject to repeal. Consequently, legislative tax limitation offers no permanent protection for the taxpayer. On the other hand, a constitutional requirement that any tax increase be put to a simple straight up-or-down, yes-or-no, supermajority vote is easier to enforce due to the transparency of the process. Members of Congress will be unable to maneuver around the constitutional requirements simply to provide themselves with political cover.
C. The Tax Limitation Amendment
The Tax Limitation Amendment was originally introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Joe Barton (R-TX), John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Ralph Hall (D-TX) and in the Senate by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ). The main provision of the TLA states that "[a]ny bill to levy a new tax or increase the rate or base of any tax may pass only by a two-thirds majority of the whole number of each House of Congress."
D. Two-Thirds Is Superior to Other Percentages.
Requiring an affirmative vote of two-thirds of all members of Congress is superior to other proportions, such as three-fifths.
1. Two-Thirds Is the Percentage Used Throughout the Constitution
A requirement of two-thirds is consistent with constitutional supermajority voting requirements. In 10 instances the Constitution mandates supermajority voting requirements. Each of these requirements reflects the thoughtful deliberation by the Framers and Amenders of the Constitution. Each serves a purpose and each illustrates the capacity of the Constitution\’s architects to impose such requirements on Congress where they were deemed necessary or useful.
When it was appropriate in the political environment of the 1780s to prescribe a specific numerical voting requirement, the Constitution supplied one. The Constitution is a living document, adaptable to modern problems. It is clear that, if the Framers of the Constitution had been faced with runaway deficits and massive government in the absence of a compelling national emergency, they would have required a supermajority
for tax increases. In the present environment of high taxes and the need for either sharp cuts in government spending or increases in revenue, politicians in Washington, D.C., cannot be trusted to protect the pocketbooks of Americans without a requirement that there be broad support for any tax increase.
2. Many States Mandate a Supermajority Vote of at Least Two-Thirds For an Increase in Taxes
States around the country have been forced to reform their budgeting and tax policies due to their own deficit spending. Many states have been successful in trimming their deficits without raising taxes. The method used by the most successful states, in conjunction with state balanced budget laws or amendments, has been supermajority tax limitation laws and spending limitation laws. Over one-third of all Americans live in a state with supermajority constitutional tax limitation. In most of the states with supermajority requirements the idea of requiring a greater than 50 percent vote of the legislature to increase taxes grew out of the tax revolt movement and the initiative process. These states offer a successful model for the federal government\’s budget and tax reform efforts.
    • A requirement of at least two-thirds is the percentage used in most of the states requiring supermajority approval of tax increases.
    • Two-thirds is the percentage used in most of the supermajority initiatives which were on the 1996 ballot and those likely to be on the 1998 ballot.
    • In 1998, 14 states have pending legislation that proposes supermajority requirements for tax increases.
3. Two-Thirds is a Higher Standard
Two-thirds is a much higher standard which affords superior protection. It would require 290 votes in the House and 67 in the Senate. Consequently, any tax measure that musters the required two-thirds vote will obviously enjoy wide support from all political parties, and among the people generally. Four of the last five major tax increases were passed with less than a two-thirds supermajority. These new taxes added $666 billion to the tax bill of the American taxpayers.
A. Without a Supermajority, Politicians are biased towards Tax Increases
Presidents for years have stated that one of their preeminent goals was to balance the federal budget. Unfortunately, this noble sentiment ran into one Congress after another that was addicted to deficit spending in order to appease their special-interest constituencies and effectively buy their way to re-election. Only recently has Congress passed a budget which is in balance. Even so, the current Congress was able to balance the budget due to a boom in economic growth, not through any meaningful reductions in spending. Almost every politician now agrees that the United States must retain this new status of balanced budgets. However, there are countless plans for doing so, including the FY1999 budget proposal from the Clinton Administration, which, while in balance, proposes over $150 billion in new spending and $25-35 billion in new taxes. Many of these types of plans put forward by those "formerly" addicted to deficit spending propose increased federal revenues. In their view, the simplest way to increase federal revenues is to increase taxes. Whether it is an upward revision of tax brackets, user fees, elimination of deductions or increased "investments," the bottom line is that many in Congress believed that they could not balance the federal budget without resorting to tax increases. In fact, while a member of Congress in 1992, former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta testified in favor of a balanced budget act which mandated automatic tax increases.
There is no correlation between increased taxes and lower deficits. The fiscal history of the United States illustrates this point. In fact, data suggests that an increase in taxes of $1.00 actually leads to $1.59 in new spending. Throughout the history of the United States the tendency of Congress to spend additional taxes instead of using them to reduce deficits has continually increased. In the first decades of the nation, tax increases were associated with declines in the federal deficit. In the 20th Century, increases in taxes have resulted in higher deficits.
Much of the increase in deficits and tax increases can be associated with the political advantages associated with new spending. When politicians allocate government resources, they seek the highest political return. There is a bias in favor of tax increases to pay for government-delivered benefits that go to relatively few people. These people come together as special interests to effectively lobby Congress. Taxes, on the other hand, are spread among many millions of people across the country who find it very difficult to band together as an effective interest group. Without constitutional tax limitation, methods such as Panetta\’s automatic tax increases or the Clinton Administration\’s FY1999 budget plan would likely gain widespread support from special-interest groups.
Many politicians opposed to the TLA maintain that the solution to runaway spending is not to amend the Constitution, but to simply enact balanced budget legislation. Using this approach to deficit reduction many of these same lawmakers voted for record tax increases in 1990 and 1993, effectively eliminating any tax relief enjoyed in the 1986 tax reform legislation. The result: The deficit, which was $152 billion and falling when President Ronald Reagan left office in 1989, was projected to rise every year into the foreseeable future as recently as last year.
With a balanced budget law or amendment without a supermajority requirement there will be a bias towards increasing taxes as a means of complying with the law. The current situation, with a budget in balance due to economic growth, will make this bias more pronounced. Raising taxes presently only requires a simple majority vote. Weak amendments which require a supermajority to run a deficit, but only a simple majority to raise taxes, make it easier to raise tax rates than to borrow. In effect, they create a tax trap. If you require a supermajority vote for borrowing money and increasing the debt ceiling you must require the same mechanism for increasing taxes. You can hear the politicians now saying how they didn\’t want to do it, but the Constitution made them raise your taxes. Instead of reflexively raising taxes to comply with the law, Congress should be compelled to reduce spending as a means of keeping the budget in balance.
III. Tax Limitation Promotes Growth
Available data show that the concept of requiring a supermajority vote helps in the battle to lower taxes. Fourteen states presently have some form of supermajority requirement for tax increases. Ten of those states require a supermajority of at least two-thirds. In a vast majority of those states, taxes as a proportion of personal income have actually declined 2 percent. In states without a supermajority requirement taxes as a proportion of personal income have risen 2 percent. Thus, there is a difference of 4 percent in tax burdens in those states with supermajority tax limitation requirements. What has happened in supermajority states is that lawmakers are required to reach a broad consensus before enacting tax increases. The supermajority forces state lawmakers to seriously consider spending priorities before automatically resorting to tax increases, and makes them more accountable to their taxpaying constituents. Not only do supermajority requirements lead to lower tax burdens at the state level, they have resulted in a reduction in overall state government spending. In states that require supermajority approval for tax increases, spending has increased by 2 percent versus an increase of 9 percent in states without the requirement. A differential of 7 percent equals significant reductions in government spending and taxation.
IV. Tax Limitation is Good Government Policy
For more than 50 years, concentrated and vocal interest groups have been able to secure costly benefits for themselves that are paid for by the widely scattered majority of taxpayers. Due to its far-flung nature, the taxpaying majority is legislatively ineffective in stopping the grants of federal government largess. A constitutional amendment mandating a two-thirds affirmative vote of Congress to increase taxes or eliminate deductions will improve the legislative process by making the passage of these expensive benefits harder to support. Requiring an affirmative Congressional vote for an increase of the tax burden will provide a "bright-line" test that all federal legislators must take before they can raise the tax burden of the U.S. people. When special-interest groups seek a government benefit they will have to persuade a much larger group of legislators to support their handout. Legislators, who represent the taxpayers who will pay the bill, will have an easier time defending their positions and stopping the continued excess taxation of the American people. No longer will they be able to go home to their states and districts and say that they were compelled to raise taxes because the increase was attached to some monumentally important bill which required passage. Nor will they be able to claim that the Constitution mandated a tax increase. The excuse that "my hands were tied" will no longer be acceptable. All members of Congress will have to live, govern and run for reelection on their voting record regarding tax increases — voting records for all to see and to compare.
V. Tax Limitation is Good Economic Policy
A. Growing Government Equals Growing Taxes
For many years it was widely accepted that economic and societal ills could be cured by increasing the role of government. The FY 1999 budget proposal from the Clinton Administration is a shining example that this theory is still alive and well. Increasing the size of government is still, in some circles, thought to lead to higher levels of prosperity. Throughout the 20th Century the size of government spending relative to Gross National Product (GNP) has continually increased. Government spending has increased from 10 percent of GNP during World War I to almost 40 percent in the 1990s. Total government spending per capita (using 1990 dollars) has also rapidly increased from $331 per American in 1900 to over $8,000 today. Per household, spending has grown from $1,651 in 1900 to well over $23,000 today (in 1990 dollars). These figures clearly show that government grew larger in both absolute and relative terms. While the size of government was increasing relative to GNP, the tax burden felt by Americans rose at a similar pace. The marginal tax rate increased from 1 percent on income over $300,000 in 1913 (1993 dollars) to almost 40 percent on incomes over $250,000 in 1995. During the interim years between 1913 and 1995 the top tax rate has fluctuated wildly. However, over time it has increased.
The ever-increasing tax burden took more and more of American wages. The individual share of federal taxation has increased from taking one of every 12 dollars earned in 1890 to one of every three dollars earned in 1990. During the same period per-capita federal taxes rose from $110 to $4,000. While the tax burden greatly increased as government spending grew to take more and more of the nation\’s wealth, increased taxes to finance growth actually led to even higher government spending. It has been estimated that $1.00 of new taxes generates $1.59 of new spending.
B. Too Much Government Spending Harms the Economy
All government spending extracts wealth from the private sector either by taxing or borrowing. The larger government becomes with its increased spending the more severe the taxing and borrowing. High borrowing crowds out private investment, thereby reducing production, capital formation and economic growth. High tax rates reduce the incentive to work, save and invest. Since the mid-1970s scholarly study has been done on the appropriate size of government for the United States and the rest of the world. There is now overwhelming evidence that government taxing and spending is beyond an optimal point. Social welfare and economic growth would be maximized if government revenue was one-quarter or less of GNP, in contrast with its present level of more than one-third of GNP. Beyond this point any resources consumed by the government impose more costs on the economy than the benefits they provide. Conversely, for every $1 of federal spending growth curtailed, the private sector will expand by $1.38 in the same year. Over seven years economic output would be $2.45 larger for each dollar of federal spending restraint. If the tax burden had been at the optimal rate since World War II economic growth would have averaged about 2 percent higher per year and the average American family would have about twice as much real income as it actually has today.
C. Increased GNP
From the time that government spending and its companion high tax rates exceeded the optimal point, more and more American resources have been devoted to less productive uses. The U.S. economy has sacrificed $2 of income for every $1 of tax paid to finance government spending beyond the optimal level. If the United States had been spending at its optimal rate, between 15 and 25 percent of GNP since the end of World War II, real GNP in 1989 (in 1993 dollars) would have been $13.6 trillion instead of $6.2 trillion. The average American family would have twice as much real income as it has today.
D. Tax Increases Lead to Less Government Revenue
Perversely, tax increases also lead to a reduction in the tax revenue collected by the Treasury and stifle economic growth. Adam Smith remarked that tariff rates beyond a certain level became self-defeating because they reduced imports and tariff revenue. The Economic Recovery and Tax Act of 1981, which sharply cut income tax rates, boosted actual tax collections by stimulating economic growth. Revenues soared from $517 billion in 1980 to over $1 trillion by the end of the decade. The possibility exists that if taxes were to be raised in the future to support increased government spending, or to allegedly eliminate the deficit, they would strangle government revenues and actually increase the United States\’ debt problems.
Between 1949 and 1989 federal, state and local governments collected a total of $43.5 trillion in taxes (1993 dollars). However, if the tax rate had been limited to 22.9 percent of GNP, governments would have collected a total of $55.1 trillion. At this rate governments would have had enough revenue to fund all spending programs enacted without any public debt! Higher tax rates also discourage work, production, savings and investment. Consequently, there is ultimately less economic activity to tax. The 1993 Clinton tax increase caused taxpayers to reduce their taxable incomes by nearly $25 billion. Taxpayers reduced their taxable income by saving less, investing less and creating fewer jobs.
Constitutional tax limitation will force government spending to fall and protect taxpayers from ever-increasing tax rates. The alternative is unacceptable; increased government borrowing and an ever-growing public debt. With a continuation of the commitment to a balanced budget, the government will be forced to set spending levels in accordance with its actual revenues. By constitutionally mandating that any increase in taxes must receive the supermajority support of Congress, it will be more difficult to raise taxes to fuel higher government spending. Consequently, over time, the level of government spending will fall to its optimal level. This will result in increased growth in both personal incomes and government revenues as the economy expands.
VI. A Two-thirds Supermajority requirement to raise federal taxes fits within the spirit of the Constitution
A. The Constitution Allows for Supermajority Voting
There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution which requires that legislation be passed by a simple majority vote of Congress. The Presentment Clause states that "[e]very bill shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States. …" The Presentment Clause does not specify a proportion necessary for passage. All bills "passed" does not mean passed by a majority of a quorum of each House. Consequently, arguments that the TLA violates the Constitution by mandating a requirement that legislation be passed by any ration other than a majority of a quorum vote are without merit.
From the early days of the Republic to the present, supermajority voting requirements have been deemed constitutional. Supermajority requirements are found in the following sections of the Constitution:
Article I, section 3, clause 6
Conviction in impeachment trials
Article I, section 5, clause 2
Expulsion of a member of Congress
Article I, section 7, clause 2
Override a presidential veto
Article II, section 1, clause 3
Quorum of two-thirds of the states to elect the President
Article II, section 2, clause 2
Consent to a treaty
Article V
Proposing constitutional amendments
Article VII
State ratification of the original Constitution
Amendment XII
Quorum of two-thirds of the states to elect the President and the Vice President
Amendment XIV
To remove disability of those who have engaged in insurrection
Amendment XXV section 4
Presidential disability
The Framers\’ decision not to impose additional constitutional supermajority requirements does not mean that they opposed extending the concept. It simply means that, at the time of ratification, they did not see a need for other supermajority requirements. However, they did recognize that circumstances change and the Constitution would need to be flexible to change with the passage of time. Consequently, they provided a mechanism to amend the Constitution – an amendment mechanism that itself requires two supermajority voting requirements: two-thirds congressional adoption of the proposed amendment and then approval by three-fourths of the states for ratification. Finally, a supermajority requirement for increasing the U.S. tax burden is not unprecedented. The 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which provides for the income tax, had to be approved by a vote of two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states. It is only logical that we should extend this protection to increases of the tax burden that are far in excess of the small burden first imposed in 1913.
B. The Founding Fathers Embraced the Idea of Two-Thirds Supermajority Votes on Important Policies
The method for deciding fundamental issues facing the U.S. government was one of the most important topics addressed by the Founding Fathers while drafting the U.S. Constitution. In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay argued that rule by a simple majority vote was tantamount to mob rule. They argued that the Constitution was to prevent transitory passions from determining the outcome of crucial decisions for the country. Madison, a vocal supporter of majority rule, argued that the greatest threat to liberty in a republic came from unrestrained majority rule. Hamilton argued for the checking of simple majorities through the use of the President\’s veto power. Hamilton recognized that two-thirds majorities to override a veto might prevent the enactment of good laws, but responded that any injury inflicted by defeating a few good laws would be compensated by the advantage of preventing a number of bad laws. Hamilton also believed that, to prevent tax abuse, direct taxes required explicit constitutional constraints. In the view of the Founding Fathers fundamental decisions should be made by special majorities of at least two-thirds of the legislature. They specifically pointed to such fundamental areas as treaty ratification and constitutional amendment ratification. They felt that even in these deliberative bodies a narrow majority of Congress might easily be put together for adopting an ill-thought-out decision which would have lasting and harmful consequences. In their view, a supermajority would reduce this danger. The Framers of the Constitution believed that the existence of a two-thirds supermajority for a proposal showed strong evidence of the long-term merits of the issue in contention.
The Founding Fathers also recognized the special and important area of tax law and subjected it to extraordinary procedures. Procedures that, in the tenor of the times, were deemed sufficient to protect the U.S. taxpayers from unjust taxation. This was especially true in light of the fact that a deadly revolution had recently been fought to protect the nation from unjust taxation. Today, the tenor of the times has changed. It is simply not sufficient protection from excessive taxation that all tax bills must first come from the House. In running up a $5 trillion debt and subjecting citizens to crushing tax burdens the Congress has clearly shown it is not capable of protecting the interests of the American people without constitutional help.
The present debt level of the United States and its high tax rates would not be accepted by our Founding Fathers. When they wrote the Constitution they did not foresee that the law of the land would one day permit Congress to spend as much money as it wished, irrespective of revenues. They would look with abject horror at the debt level of this country and cry for a change. In light of the events surrounding the Revolution and the adoption of the Constitution – repressive and heavy tax burdens imposed from far-off London – there is no doubt that the Framers would support a measure to protect U.S. taxpayers from repressive and heavy tax burdens imposed from far-removed Washington, D.C. The simplest and fairest way to do so is to adopt the TLA and its requirement that all increases in the tax burden be subject to a supermajority vote by both houses of Congress on a straight yea or nay vote.
C. Congress Historically Utilizes Supermajority Voting Requirements
The First 100 Years
Mandating supermajority approval of legislation is a tradition dating back more than 150 years, to the 17th Congress. As the number of members in the House increased and political parties appeared, passage of even the simplest legislation became more difficult. It thus became necessary for the House to have some means by which to bypass the regular order of business. In 1822, a rule was passed that no House rule could be suspended without a two-thirds vote of the members present. In 1828, the suspension rule was amended to require a vote of two-thirds of the members actually voting.
2. The 20th Century
a. The House of Represeatives
In the modern era, supermajority voting requirements continue to be used in both the House and Senate. As with the suspension rule from the 1820s, other House rules have incorporated supermajority voting requirements, many of which remain in effect today. For example, the Rules Committee is responsible for controlling the flow of legislation, proposing the terms of debate, and setting the time on general debate and
the procedure for amendments. Typically, floor consideration of a Rules Committee report may not occur until the day after the report is issued. However, House rules enable two-thirds of the members to approve considering a report from the Rules Committee on the same day it is presented to the House. If the House rejects the Rules Committee\’s rule, absent a supermajority vote to consider a second rule on the same day the second rule was reported, consideration of a bill will be delayed.
Under the Calendar Wednesday Rule, each Wednesday of the week is set aside to allow bills to be considered on the House floor that have been reported out of committee, but blocked by the Rules Committee. Although House rules prohibit the Rules Committee from setting aside Calendar Wednesday, other rules allow the Calendar Wednesday procedure to be dispensed with at any time by a two-thirds vote. Further rules require a two-thirds vote to continue considering a measure that is carried over from a previous Calendar Wednesday without reaching a vote on final passage. Finally, on the first day of the 104th Congress, the House passed House Rule XXI that requires supermajority approval of all bills which increase taxes.
b. The Senate
Senate rules require a two-thirds vote for suspension of the rules and for the fixing of time for considering a subject. The Senate requires a three-fifths vote of all Senators to end debate or to increase the time available under cloture. Further, Senate rules require a two-thirds vote to indefinitely postpone a treaty. Finally, budget procedures require that three-fifths of the full Senate must agree to waive balanced budget provisions or points of order in order to consider amendments which would violate the budget approved by Congress.
VII. Requiring a Supermajority to pass important legislation is an idea embraced around the world
Leading democratic nations and statesmen have rejected simple majority votes as a means of adopting laws that fundamentally affect their nations. These Supermajority requirements take the form of either legislative or popular referendums. Benjamin Disraeli in the United Kingdom believed that the use of a simple majority for altering the character of the nation was an immoral exercise of power. He theorized that simple majorities that lead to slender margins of passage suggest only a temporary majority in favor of a policy. Making decisions on such temporary majorities leads to decisions which are likely to be reversed. This leads to instability and is damaging to democratic politics. Echoing the views of Hamilton, Madison and Jay is Disraeli\’s view that the clearer the majority, the more likely that the proposed policy is correct.
Charles De Gaulle in France also favored supermajority referendum approval for important state issues. He believed that a simple majority did not build public support. He felt that to be successful you needed to convince the undecided and those who were mildly opposed to a proposal that they should support and accept the decision as being fairly made. De Gaulle believed that narrow majorities had the opposite effect. Simple majorities created embittered opposition. The opposition is reinforced in the idea that the decision was unfair and that, with resistance, their opponents\’ victory will only be momentary. Those whose position is lost will resist the government in its attempts to implement the decision and divide the country on the issue. Therefore, a simple majority was viewed as making unity impossible. In the end this division would go a long way toward bringing about the failure of the policy. A clear supermajority, on the other hand, would reduce these risks and help bring about the successful implementation of the proposal that had been passed.
VII. Conclusion
Politicians who have accumulated a debt of $5 trillion over slightly more than 30 years cannot now simply be trusted to abandon their profligate spending habits in the face of a possible balanced budget law. Without some way to prevent politicians from simply raising taxes to meet the requirements of any balanced budget law, the American people will suffer from ever-increasing tax burdens. The best way to prevent our representatives in Washington from raising our taxes is to adopt the Tax Limitation Amendment and its requirement of an affirmative supermajority vote of both chambers of Congress for any rise in the tax burden. The Tax limitation Amendment is good policy. In those states that require legislative supermajorities to increase the tax burden the method has proved to be an effective tool for lowering both tax burdens and government spending. The Tax Limitation Amendment is constitutional. There are numerous supermajority voting requirements mandated by the Constitution. The United States was founded in part on the basis of freedom from oppressive taxes. In light of the present federal policy of taxing to finance runaway spending, the Founding Fathers would support extending supermajority voting to any increases in the citizens\’ tax burden. Finally, requiring supermajority approval of important government policies is a concept that has been accepted by statesmen around the world.
Appendix A
Tax Limitation Amendment: 105th Congress, US Senate
Resolved in the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification.
"Section 1. Any bill to levy a new tax or increase the rate or base of any tax may pass by a two-thirds majority of the whole number of each House of Congress.
"Section 2. The Congress may waive Section 1 when a declaration of war is in effect. The Congress may also waive Section 1 when the United States is engaged in military conflict which causes an imminent and serious threat to national security and is so declared by a joint resolution, adopted by a majority of the whole number of each House, which becomes law. Any provision of law which would, standing alone, be subject to Section 1 but for this section and which becomes law pursuant to such a waiver shall be effective for not longer than two years.
"Section 3. All votes taken by the House of Representatives or the Senate under this article shall be determined by yeas and nays and the names of persons voting for and against shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively."
Appendix B
Supermajority Requirements at the State Level
2/3 elected
All taxes
¾ elected
All taxes
2/3 elected
All taxes
2/3 elected
Temporary emergency taxes only, otherwise, voter approval required
2/3 elected
All taxes
3/5 elected
2/3 voters
Changes in corporate income tax.
All taxes
2/3 elected
All taxes
3/5 elected
1890, 1970
Referendum (1970)
All taxes
2/3 elected
2/3 elected
All taxes
¾ elected
All taxes
3/5 elected
All taxes
South Dakota
2/3 elected
All taxes
2/3 elected
All taxes
In 1993, Texas voters approved a measure prohibiting the creation of a state personal income tax without voter approval. Also in 1993, Washington State voters approved a measure requiring voter approval for most new state taxes.
Additionally, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Nebraska and Rhode Island require supermajorities for the approval of a budget or other appropriations. Michigan, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, Utah and Washington mandate a two-thirds vote of their legislatures on various budgetary and tax revenue issues. Wyoming has a requirement that any income tax approved by the legislature provide full credit for all other taxes paid.
Appendix C
Recent State Supermajority Initiatives
Voter approval required if imposing personal income tax, real property tax or state retail sales tax.
2/3 of those voting in an election
Existing state taxes or fees or creation of any new state taxes or fees that arise from the initiative process.
Voter approval of new taxes and fees.
Any new tax or an increase in taxes or license fees.
2/3 elected
Any new tax, increase in taxes, or repeal of a tax exemption or credit.
Any bill increasing state revenue by increasing a tax on income or on the selling price of any personal property.
Vote of the people scheduled for June 29, 1999
Legislative and/or voter approval of changes in state tax laws.
Required to approve certain tax increases.
Increasing income or sales taxes.
New York
Any bill imposing or increasing or reviving any taxes-Urged by Gov. Pataki
Any bill increasing or decreasing taxes.
All revenue bills.
Any bill increasing or decreasing taxes.
Rhode Island
2/3 Legislature
Increasing or creating any new sales tax, use tax, or income tax.
Increasing the rate or amount of existing taxes or license fees.
 South Carolina
2/3 Legislature
On the second reading of a bill imposing new taxes affecting more than 50% of the states population.
Imposing retroactive tax increases.
Imposing any tax or tax increase.
Requiring a referendum to impose or increase any state tax without a two-thirds majority vote in each House.
Vote required before all tax increases by any government body are approved.
All taxes.
West Virginia
Requires that bills imposing a tax or license fee or increasing any tax rate may not be enacted unless the members of each House are present, voting and vote for passage.
Appendix D
Supermajority Requirements Around the World
Andalusia (Spain)
Fifty percent of eligible voters.
Majority plus two-thirds of the states.
Majority plus two-thirds vote of the lower House of Parliament.
Forty percent of eligible voters.
De facto requirements of a "massive majority."
Two-thirds of votes cast.
Germany (Weimar)
Fifty percent of eligible voters.
Fifty percent of eligible voters.
Two-thirds of eligible voters.
Fifty percent of eligible voters.
New Zealand
Sixty percent of votes cast.
Majority + 75 percent vote in Parliament.
Seventy five percent of votes cast.
Fifty percent of eligible voters.
Forty percent of eligible voters.
Sierra Leone
Two-thirds of votes cast.
Majority plus two-thirds vote in both houses of Parliament during two consecutive terms.
Majority plus vote of Parliament during two consecutive terms.
Majority plus 12 out of 22 cantons.
Thirty five percent of eligible voters.
Forty percent of eligible voters.