The “”No New Taxes”” Pledge

Brennan Kelly and William G. Gale
William G. Gale The Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Federal Economic Policy, Senior Fellow - Economic Studies, Co-Director - Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center

June 4, 2004


This paper examines the “No New Taxes” Pledge, which has been signed by the
President and 258 members of Congress. Although it is intended to restrict the size of
government, the pledge probably hinders rather than helps efforts to restore fiscal
responsibility. Evidence from trends in aggregate taxes and spending, the success or
failure of budget rules, and the voting records of pledge signers casts doubt on the view
that signing the pledge is an effective effort to “starve the beast” or an act of fiscal
responsibility. If all of the signers uphold the pledge, it will prove impossible to repeal
any part of the 2001, 2002, and 2003 tax cuts before President Bush leaves office, though
the legislation could expire as scheduled even if all the signers supported extension. The
pledge may also have implications for appropriate budget scoring rules