REP. ERNEST Istook, the most recent in a long line of House Appropriations D.C. subcommittee chairmen, seems to like most of the consensus budget sent to Congress by District officials. However, the Oklahoma Republican appears cool to a trigger mechanism in the budget that would halt the phase-in of new tax cuts if the economy slows down. We hope Mr. Istook will warm to the idea.
The financial control board had good reasons for insisting on the inclusion of a trigger mechanism before it signed off on the budget's nearly $300 million tax-cut package. Control board members rightly feared that pushing ahead with massive reductions in personal and business taxes in the midst of an economic slowdown would risk returning the city to financial instability and another era of disrupted services. To avoid those outcomes, the trigger mechanism would halt any phase-in of tax cuts if the nation's economic growth rate drops below 3.5 percent, or 1.7 percent when adjusted for inflation. That seems to be a conservative and prudent safeguard for the city to have on hand.
Some council members are complaining that they approved the addition of a trigger mechanism on Tuesday under duress. The control board threatened to veto the new budget unless the eleventh-hour add-on was accepted, they say.
We are shedding no tears. Regardless of what produced the council's cooperation, the trigger mechanism ought to be included. Halting the phase-in of the tax cuts is far preferable to automatically slashing spending in ways that could hamper much-needed improvements in services. Mr. Istook should take a second look at the budget.