Blessed with forecasts of a $660 billion surplus in the federal budget over the next 10 years, Congress faces a rising debate over whether to use the windfall to boost spending, lower taxes, or reduce the national debt. But if Rep. Bill Archer (R, Tex.) has anything to say about it--and as chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, he has a lot to say--Congress will adopt the latter two options. In a major policy speech in Washington Jan. 20 outlining his proposed agenda for the influential panel, he indicated his top priority will be to reduce the federal tax burden to 19% of the gross domestic product (GDP) from its current level of 19.9%. But he also proposed paying down the national debt by $200 billion over the next decade. The two actions, he insisted, will not "tip the budget out of balance."
Among candidates for specific cuts, Archer cited elimination of the "marriage penalty," a reduction of the capital-gains tax, and a cut in the alternative minimum tax. He also urged a cap on attorneys fees in the tobacco settlement that is pending by Congress and an examination of ways to prevent fraud resulting from the growing use of Social Security numbers. He said he hopes to "build a consensus" for a fundamental overhaul of the tax code that hes previously advocated.