Republican Rep. Ed Zschau has voted against government spending even when it jeopardized him politically. He has signed letters year after year pledging to back Ronald Reagan in the fight against new taxes. He also once proposed a new tax.
So, to cement his claim as a fiscal conservative and a spending skinflint, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Zschau on Monday pledged that he will oppose any income tax rate increase for the next six years if elected.
Zschau gripped a black magic marker and, in the view of news cameras, signed a large, four-foot-long pledge card against any increase in the lower income tax rates in the new federal tax revision bill.
Valid 'for My Term'
"What I have pledged here and what I will sign in your presence is a pledge that when this tax reform bill is signed into law that I will not support the actions that some are proposing to immediately go forward and raise the rates," the congressman said.
Additionally, Zschau pledged to "oppose any further reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."
Zschau said his pledge does not cover other government revenues. He said the promise not to raise income tax rates is valid "for my term in the United States Senate--the next six years."
The President is expected to sign the tax bill into law this week. It will reduce the basic income tax rates for individuals from a maximum of 50% to 28% and eliminate numerous deductions in the name of fairness and simplicity.
In San Diego, Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston, the man Zschau is trying to unseat, said in regard to Zschau's pledge:
"I think it is irresponsible to sign a pledge that under no circumstances will you ever consider a tax increase. We could be in a disastrous military situation or we could be in a disastrous economic situation. We may find it impossible to cope with the deficit without some form of new revenue. . . .
"I put myself in the category of those (in Congress) who think it may be necessary (to raise taxes), but unless President Reagan comes to that view I don't think it is likely to occur because he has already stated he will veto any measure that raises taxes."
Zschau, during press conferences in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego, did not mention his ill-fated 1984 proposal to impose a 5% income tax surcharge to help balance the federal budget. When asked about it, Zschau said he would no longer support a surcharge under the new tax revision bill.
Baker With Him
Joining Zschau on Monday was Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III, a chief designer of the tax bill.
Baker said the signing of the tax bill should be followed by a "moratorium, frankly, on reform of the tax system for a while."
Many in Congress, however, have indicated that enactment of the tax reform bill will stimulate a whole flood of tax "adjustment" bills in the 100th Congress that convenes next year. Zschau has been among those signaling support for efforts to reform the tax reform bill at some unspecified point in the future. Zschau principally is concerned with reinstituting a tax advantage for investors in the form of a lower rate on capital gains. Under the new tax bill, these gains will be taxed like ordinary income.
"We may have to, in order to preserve capital formation in this country, reconsider that," Zschau said.
Zschau's no-tax-increase pledge is consistent with his past promises in Congress. Each year of his two terms, Zschau signed a GOP-sponsored letter from members of the House to the President pledging to sustain his veto of any tax increase, according to Press Secretary Jim LeMunyon.
In his congressional service, Zschau has also voted against bills, even when supporting their general aims, on grounds of excessive spending. And he has been criticized for it.