Senatorial candidate John Cornyn (R), and 16 members of the Texas Congressional Delegation have pledged to oppose new taxes. But candidate Ron Kirk (D) won\’t do the same.

WASHINGTON – Taxes are always a hot issue in Texas. But in the tight race for the Senate seat vacated by Republican Phil Gramm, taxes have become the primary difference between the major candidates for the seat.

Texas Attorney General John Cornyn (R) will face off against Mayor of Dallas Ron Kirk (D) in the November 5 election. Cornyn has taken the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in Washington. The pledge commits candidates and elected officials to oppose efforts to raise taxes. Ron Kirk, while saying that he opposes new taxes, has not agreed to take the Pledge.

By signing the ATR Pledge, Cornyn has effectively promised to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses." To date, President George W. Bush, 211 members of the U.S. House and 38 Senators have taken the pledge, as well as 1,274 state and local government legislators and officials.

Cornyn is in honorable company; Texas support for the ATR Pledge is strong, currently including Senators Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison, as well fourteen House members have all taken the Pledge. Thirty-five state legislators have also taken the Pledge, as well as 14 federal candidates and 38 state candidates.

"John Cornyn has shown his commitment to taxpayers of Texas and those all across America by taking the Pledge," said taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, who heads ATR in Washington. "The fundamental battle in Congress each year is between representatives who represent taxpayers and those who represent the spending interests. Cornyn has undoubtedly shown his mettle to taxpayers."

The Pledge is important, because the two previous federal tax increases would have been prevented had a majority in Congress signed the Pledge. The 1990 budget bill instituted the largest tax and public fees increase to that date, which could have been prevented had more senators taken the Pledge. The bill barely passed-a simple 8 votes would have swung it the opposite way-but it set the precedent for another wave of tax increases in 1993. Bill Clinton\’s 1994 budget topped the previous increase and claimed fame of the largest tax increase in all of US history. This bill squeaked through the Senate with a 50-50 vote that required Al Gore\’s affirmation to pass.

"A vision of an America with simpler, fairer, flatter taxes is a plausible one," continued Norquist, "and often, the biggest tax hikes are enacted by a single vote. Do Texas voters want Ron Kirk to be that one vote?"