Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks on Signing Tax and Drought Relief Bills Into Law

May 23, 1977

THE PRESIDENT. Again, I apologize for sitting down in the presence of my distinguished peers. I just have to assume this position to do the signing.

The first bill that I'd like to discuss and sign is House Resolution 3477, which is designed and which has been successfully passed by the Congress to greatly simplify the income tax codes of our Nation, to provide greater equity and, also, substantially to reduce taxes among our people. We have seen many Members of the Congress work long hours on this very fine legislation, and I think to a substantial degree, the local and State officials have been involved in this process.

This legislation will provide $5 billion in direct tax reduction to the American taxpayers to be implemented immediately, perhaps as early as June, in withholding taxes.

And for the average family of four that makes $10,000 a year, this will be a permanent tax reduction of 30 percent, which is of very great benefit to the American average family. Most of the benefits in this tax reduction will go to lower- and middle-income families; about 80 percent of it to families that make less than $15,000 a year.

Also, it greatly simplifies the procedure for computing income taxes. About 95 percent of the American people next year, as they file their 1977 tax return, will be able to use a simplified version with a standard deduction and one very simple computation.

We are very proud of the fact, too, that this bill does extend the earned-income tax credits that were initiated by Senator Long. They worked very well. They're an instigation for the lower-income groups to seek and to find employment, and they reward hard work at the low-income levels when the salaries might be too low to finance the needs of the low-income families.

This bill also includes countercyclical help for low- and middle-income families, but particularly through direct grants to the local and State governments.

And this is a bill that's designed to continue our tax simplification, equity, and to stimulate our economy in a way that is productive.

I'm very pleased at the good work that Chairman Ullman in the House and Chairman Long in the Senate have done. And many of the Members of Congress on my left played an instrumental role in bringing forward this good legislation.

It's $5 billion. It continues about $12 billion in the earned-income tax credits. So, it's a tremendous boost to the people who need it most, and it's with great pleasure that I sign this legislation into law.

[At this point, the President signed H.R. 3477 into law.]

I'd like to congratulate again the two chairmen. You've done a good job. Thank you very much.

One of the most pleasant things for a Member of Congress or a President is to be able to reduce taxes and, at the same time, to get our economy moving again and, also, to simplify the complicated tax codes. And to have this done all in the same bill is a notable achievement. And I'm very deeply grateful to all of you for having helped in this respect.

Last week, I visited California and was able to go on one of the farms there to witness at firsthand the adverse consequences of the continuing drought. We have experienced in the last number of months, the worst drought in more than 40 years. The prospects for a continuation of this problem are very real. Water levels are dropping in many areas of the country. Streams are drying up. Reservoirs which I examined, which ordinarily would be full and overflowing, are down to a 25-percent level. The mountaintops in many regions of our country, which ordinarily are covered with 4 or 5 feet of packed snow, are bare of any snow. And we feel that in the months ahead the drought conditions are going to get much worse.

Through the leadership of Senator Quentin Burdick in the Senate, who's the author of this bill, and Bizz Johnson in the House, we've been successful in having the Congress consider favorably Senate bill 1279 which provides drought relief. This is a bill that provides immediate relief. All the projects to be financed by direct grants or loans under this legislation must be completed by April 1978. This will help the small communities in drilling new wells and providing viaducts for the transportation of water, for conservation measures, and for other projects to overcome the consequences of the continuing drought.

I'm very proud that this has been passed so expeditiously. The money to finance this program was included in the appropriation bill that I signed last week.

And I think these Congressmen are to be congratulated on pursuing this effort so rapidly and in focusing in a very narrow way, but an accurate way, the direct help that is needed at this time. So, congratulations to Senator Quentin Burdick, to Bizz Johnson, and all those on my right who were instrumental in passing this drought relief measure.

Our hope is that with rains this year and with heavier snowfall in the next winter, that 1978 might be better. But at the present time, in many parts of our country the effects of the drought are just now beginning to be experienced. They're going to get much worse in the future, and this is a good step forward to prevent the adverse consequences of the drought conditions that can affect very quickly our whole country.

[At this point, the President signed S. 1279 into law.]

Quentin, would you like to say a word about your legislation? Please do. Why don't you have a seat?

SENATOR BURDICK. I'd like to thank the President for signing this much needed legislation. As the President said, With the assistance of the House and the Senate, we acted quite expeditiously on this matter.

The drought in the West is serious, and this is going to be a very valuable tool in meeting this problem. So again, thank you, Mr. President.

REPRESENTATIVE ULLMAN. Let me just say that the stimulus package was the first major package that the President sent up. It involved, I think, a great deal of establishment of the proper relationship between the Congress and the President. It demonstrated the President has flexibility in approaching the problems.

I think the net product is one that will do the job that we intended to do and one that has further significance in that it, I think, establishes a pattern of a working relationship between the Congress and the President that should be a prototype for a lot of other legislation coming down the pike. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. I want to thank all of you personally for being so helpful and so cooperative with me. This is a step in the right direction. And I agree with Al's statement. It's just a precursor of what we're going to do together in the future.

Note: The President spoke at 11:33 a.m. at the signing ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House.

As enacted, H.R. 3477, the Tax Reduction and Simplification Act of 1977, is Public Law 95-30, and S. 1279, the Community Emergency Drought Relief Act of 1977, is Public Law 95-31, both approved May 23.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Signing Tax and Drought Relief Bills Into Law Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243019

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