WASHINGTON – Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, has revived a bill to move the federal income tax filing date closer to Election Day, to better connect paying taxes with voting, but it’s not expected to get a better reception this time around.
Two tax reform groups have pledged support, and Bartlett, a conservative Republican in a Democratic Congress, said last week that, although he has not yet tried to win support for the bill, he “could very quickly get 150 co-sponsors.”
But passage of a bill he believes in is not always his uppermost concern, say political observers.
“There’s only one Roscoe Bartlett. He moves to his own policy drummer,” said Keith Haller, president of Potomac Inc., a Bethesda-based independent polling firm. “He’s very much a conservative iconoclast.”
The bill is “a great idea,” said Grover Norquist, president and founder of Americans for Tax Reform, which opposes tax increases. “I think they should make him a knight or something . . . He’s going to start a revolution if this bill passes.”
But he and nearly everyone else interviewed for this story acknowledged that the bill is unlikely to get any farther than it has in the past three Congresses in which it was introduced.
“D.O.A.” said David Falk, professor with the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, College Park. “He had his chance for 12 years, and it never saw the light of day then. . . . It’s a political statement.”
Just because a congressman writes a bill and drops it in the hopper doesn’t mean it will go anywhere, Falk said. It’s just a lawmaker’s way of expressing views for the homefolk.
The measure, H.R. 77, would move the April 15 deadline for calendar-year taxpayers filing income tax returns to the first Monday in November, the day before Election Day.
Bartlett is confident in the bill’s message.
“I think that paying taxes on Monday and voting on Tuesday would make people make a real connection between voting and the people they elect to office,” Bartlett said last week. “Certainly, people ought to be aware of what their government costs them when they go to vote.”
The effect of the bill could be bipartisan, Bartlett said.
“People will look at their tax return and ask whether they think ‘My congressman is spending my money well,'” he said. “If they think big government is a good thing, then they will vote to pay for that . . . If they prefer a smaller government, then they would pay for that. Everybody goes into this with their own perception.”
Regarding voters who would like to pay for “bigger government and more spending,” Bartlett said, “As a conservative, I would like to think that’s a minority of people.”
The tax bill has been introduced in the last three Congresses, and Bartlett first signed onto the concept as co-sponsor in 1995. The bill has yet to get out of committee, the fate of a majority of bills each session.
Since joining Congress in 1992, Bartlett has made a name for himself, championing causes like “Peak Oil,” which holds that we’ve passed the midpoint of the world’s oil reserves and must become energy independent, and “Snowflake Babies,” adopted embryos once destined for research or destruction.
Beyond the 17 bills he introduced in January, Bartlett has initiated 83 bills. Two made their way through the House. Last Congress, Bartlett’s bill to ensure an individual’s right to display the U.S. flag on residential property became public law. In 2003, a congressional resolution congratulating Fort Detrick on 60 years of national service made its way to the Senate Judiciary Committee.