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Trent Lott on Tax Reform

Republican Jr Senator (MS)


1985: Regrets supporting Reagan's tax reform

As I studied Reagan's 1985 budget proposal carefully, I found I agreed with the critics. It looked as if I might have to use the power of being the GOP Whip to defeat a bill the president wanted.

At a highly charged White House meeting, the president launched into a sales pitch. I was unmoved. I said, "I don't agree that this is some sort of tax reform. I just think it's another tax increase. I don't think it's the right thing for the country."

The president stopped and turned toward me. "Well, if I can't count on my whip, who can I count on?" I leaned back in my chair and thought about that. Finally, I leaned forward. "I'll do it," I said, more eagerly than I'd expected--knowing full well that it would be the biggest legislative mistake of my years as whip, and the worst vote I had yet cast in the House.

I let him talk me into it, because of my admiration for him and because of the leadership responsibility that was inherent to my elected office. I knew it was wrong. I still regret it.

Source: Herding Cats, by Trent Lott, p. 90-91 Aug 29, 2006

Voted YES on raising estate tax exemption to $5 million.

An amendment to raise the death tax exemption to $5 million; reducing the maximum death tax rate to 35%; and to promote economic growth by extending the lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

It is disappointing to many family businesses and farm owners to set the death tax rate at what I believe is a confiscatory 45% and set the exemption at only $3.5 million, which most of us believe is too low. This leaves more than 22,000 families subject to the estate tax each year.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

You can extend all the tax breaks that have been described in this amendment if you pay for them. The problem with the amendment is that over $70 billion is not paid for. It goes on the deficit, which will drive the budget right out of balance. We will be going right back into the deficit ditch. Let us resist this amendment. People could support it if it was paid for, but it is not. However well intended the amendment is, it spends $72.5 billion with no offset. This amendment blows the budget. This amendment takes us from a balance in 2012 right back into deficit. My colleagues can extend those tax cuts if they pay for them, if they offset them. This amendment does not pay for them; it does not offset them; it takes us back into deficit. It ought to be defeated.

Reference: Kyl Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.507 on S.Con.Res.21 ; vote number 2007-083 on Mar 21, 2007

Voted YES on supporting permanence of estate tax cuts.

Increases the estate tax exclusion to $5,000,000, effective 2015, and repeals the sunset provision for the estate and generation-skipping taxes. Lowers the estate tax rate to equal the current long-term capital gains tax rate (i.e., 15% through 2010) for taxable estates up to $25 million. Repeals after 2009 the estate tax deduction paid to states.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

The permanent solution to the death tax challenge that we have today is a compromise. It is a compromise that prevents the death rate from escalating to 55% and the exclusion dropping to $1 million in 2011. It also includes a minimum wage increase, 40% over the next 3 years. Voting YES is a vote for that permanent death tax relief. Voting YES is for that extension of tax relief. Voting YES is for that 40% minimum wage increase. This gives us the opportunity to address an issue that will affect the typical American family, farmers, & small business owners.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Family businesses and family farms should not be broken up to pay taxes. With the booming economy of the 1990s, many more Americans joined the ranks of those who could face estate taxes. Raising the exemption level and lowering the rate in past legislation made sense. Under current law, in my State of Delaware, fewer than 50 families will face any estate tax in 2009. I oppose this legislation's complete repeal of the estate tax because it will cost us $750 billion. Given the world we live in today, with clear domestic needs unmet, full repeal is a luxury that we cannot afford.

To add insult to this injury, the first pay raise for minimum wage workers in 10 years is now hostage to this estate tax cut. We are told that to get those folks on minimum wage a raise, we have to go into debt, so that the sons and daughters of the 7,000 most fortunate families among us will be spared the estate tax. We must say no to this transparent gimmick.

Reference: Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act; Bill H.R. 5970 ; vote number 2006-229 on Aug 3, 2006

Voted YES on permanently repealing the `death tax`.

A cloture motion ends debate and forces a vote on the issue. In this case, voting YES implies support for permanently repealing the death tax. Voting against cloture would allow further amendments. A cloture motion requires a 3/5th majority to pass. This cloture motion failed, and there was therefore no vote on repealing the death tax.
Reference: Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act; Bill HR 8 ; vote number 2006-164 on Jun 8, 2006

Voted NO on $47B for military by repealing capital gains tax cut.

To strengthen America's military, to repeal the extension of tax rates for capital gains and dividends, to reduce the deficit, and for other purposes. Specifically, a YES vote would appropriate $47 billion to the military and would pay for it by repealing the extension of tax cuts for capital gains and dividends to 2010 back to 2008. The funds wuold be used as follows:
Reference: Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act; Bill S Amdt 2737 to HR 4297 ; vote number 2006-008 on Feb 2, 2006

Voted YES on retaining reduced taxes on capital gains & dividends.

Vote to reduce federal spending by $56.1 billion over five years by retaining a reduced tax rate on capital gains and dividends, as well as.
Status: Bill passed Bill passed, 66-31
Reference: Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act; Bill HR 4297 ; vote number 2006-010 on Feb 2, 2006

Voted YES on $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years.

H.R. 2 Conference Report; Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. Vote to adopt the conference report on the bill that would make available $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years. It would provide $20 billion in state aid that consists of $10 billion for Medicaid and $10 billion to be used at states' judgment. The agreement contains a new top tax rate of 15 percent on capital gains and dividends through 2007 (5 percent for lower-income taxpayers in 2007 and no tax in 2008). Income tax cuts enacted in 2001 and planned to take effect in 2006 would be accelerated. The child tax credit would be raised to $1,000 through 2004. The standard deduction for married couples would be double that for a single filer through 2004. Tax breaks for businesses would include expanding the deduction that small businesses could take on investments to $100,000 through 2005.
Reference: Bill HR.2 ; vote number 2003-196 on May 23, 2003

Voted NO on reducing marriage penalty instead of cutting top tax rates.

Vote to expand the standard deduction and 15% income tax bracket for couples. The elimination of the "marriage penalty" tax would be offset by reducing the marginal tax rate reductions for the top two rate bracket
Reference: Bill HR 1836 ; vote number 2001-112 on May 17, 2001

Voted NO on increasing tax deductions for college tuition.

Vote to increase the tax deduction for college tuition costs from $5,000 to $12,000 and increase the tax credit on student loan interest from $500 to $1,000. The expense would be offset by limiting the cut in the top estate tax rate to 53%.
Reference: Bill HR 1836 ; vote number 2001-114 on May 17, 2001

Voted YES on eliminating the 'marriage penalty'.

Vote on a bill that would reduce taxes on married couples by increasing their standard deduction to twice that of single taxpayers and raise the income limits on both the 15 percent and 28 percent tax brackets for married couples to twice that of singles
Reference: Bill HR.4810 ; vote number 2000-215 on Jul 18, 2000

Voted YES on across-the-board spending cut.

The Nickles (R-OK) Amdendment would express the sense of the Senate that Congress should adopt an across-the-board cut in all discretionary funding, to prevent the plundering of the Social Security Trust Fund
Status: Amdt. Agreed to Y)54; N)46
Reference: Nickles Amdt #1889; Bill S. 1650 ; vote number 1999-313 on Oct 6, 1999

Voted YES on requiring super-majority for raising taxes.

Senator Kyl (R-AZ) offered an amendment to the 1999 budget resolution to express the sense of the Senate on support for a Constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority to pass tax increases.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)50; N)48; NV)2
Reference: Kyl Amdt #2221; Bill S Con Res 86 ; vote number 1998-71 on Apr 2, 1998

Rated 81% by NTU, indicating a "Taxpayer's Friend" on tax votes.

Lott scores 81% by NTU on tax-lowering policies

Every year National Taxpayers Union (NTU) rates U.S. Representatives and Senators on their actual votes—every vote that significantly affects taxes, spending, debt, and regulatory burdens on consumers and taxpayers. NTU assigned weights to the votes, reflecting the importance of each vote’s effect. NTU has no partisan axe to grind. All Members of Congress are treated the same regardless of political affiliation. Our only constituency is the overburdened American taxpayer. Grades are given impartially, based on the Taxpayer Score. The Taxpayer Score measures the strength of support for reducing spending and regulation and opposing higher taxes. In general, a higher score is better because it means a Member of Congress voted to lessen or limit the burden on taxpayers. The Taxpayer Score can range between zero and 100. We do not expect anyone to score a 100, nor has any legislator ever scored a perfect 100 in the multi-year history of the comprehensive NTU scoring system. A high score does not mean that the Member of Congress was opposed to all spending or all programs. High-scoring Members have indicated that they would vote for many programs if the amount of spending were lower. A Member who wants to increase spending on some programs can achieve a high score if he or she votes for offsetting cuts in other programs. A zero score would indicate that the Member of Congress approved every spending proposal and opposed every pro-taxpayer reform.

Source: NTU website 03n-NTU on Dec 31, 2003

Rated 0% by the CTJ, indicating opposition to progressive taxation.

Lott scores 0% by the CTJ on taxationissues

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 CTJ scores as follows:

About CTJ (from their website, www.ctj.org):

Citizens for Tax Justice, founded in 1979, is not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organization focusing on federal, state and local tax policies and their impact upon our nation. CTJ's mission is to give ordinary people a greater voice in the development of tax laws. Against the armies of special interest lobbyists for corporations and the wealthy, CTJ fights for:

Source: CTJ website 06n-CTJ on Dec 31, 2006

Member of the Congressional Flat Tax Caucus.

Lott is a member the Congressional Flat Tax Caucus

"Our current income tax system is broken. It is complex; unfair; inhibits saving, investment and job creation; imposes a heavy burden on families; and undermines the integrity of the Democratic process. It cannot be repaired by any tinkering or fine-tuning. It must be completely repealed and replaced."

Source: Flat Tax Caucus website 07-FTC0 on Nov 6, 2007

Other candidates on Tax Reform: Trent Lott on other issues:
MS Gubernatorial:
Haley Barbour
MS Senatorial:
Roger Wicker
Thad Cochran

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Page last updated: Nov 23, 2009