THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||July 22, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN SIGNING INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
RESTRUCTURING AND REFORM ACT
The East Room
1:40 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Ladies andgentlemen, before I make my statement, I would like to amplify alittle bit on the remarks I made earlier this morning on the death ofAlan Shepard.
He is one of the great heroes of modern America -- ourfirst astronaut, our first American in space. None of us who werealive then will ever forget him sitting so calmly in Freedom 7, atopa slender and sometimes unreliable Mercury Redstone rocket. AsPresident Kennedy observed at the time, America chose to make thisfirst risky launch in full view of the world. And "our entirenation, in his words, which risked much, gained much."
Alan Shepard understood the odds; he faced them bravely.And he led our country and all humanity beyond the bounds of ourplanet, across a truly new frontier, into the new era of spaceexploration.
A decade later, in 1971, Commander Shepard fought hisway back from a debilitating ear infection to become the Commander ofApollo 14, and the fifth person to walk on the moon. On behalf ofmyself and Mr. Bowles, I can't help noting that there on the moon helived every golfer's dream -- (laughter) -- taking his six iron andhitting the ball, in his words, "for miles and miles." (Laughter.)
Alan Shepard truly had the right stuff. His servicewill always loom large in America's history. I extend to his wife,Louise, his family, and his colleagues in the Navy and at NASA, thethanks of a grateful nation and our thoughts and prayers.
Now, I'd like to join Secretary Rubin in thankingCommissioner Rossotti, the Vice President, and you, Mr. Secretary,for what you have done. But I especially want to acknowledge thepresence of all the members of Congress here. And in particular, letme thank Senator Kerrey and Congressman Portman, Senator Roth,Senator Moynihan, Senator Grassley, Congressman Archer, CongressmanRangel, Congress Cardin for their leading work that makes it possiblefor me to sign into law today the Internal Revenue ServiceRestructuring and Reform Act. The bill is a culmination of thecommitment and the hard work of many people, but especially thosewhom I have just mentioned.
We've all worked hard to give the American people an IRSthat reflects America's values and respects America's taxpayers. Twoyears ago I was proud to sign into law a Taxpayer Bill of Rights --again, passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the Congress-- that has helped to make the IRS fairer and more responsive. Underthe leadership of the Vice President and Secretary Rubin, we'veupgraded customer service at the IRS, appointing Charles Rossotti, aseasoned, private-sector CEO, to reshape the agency, expanding officehours and phone hours, making it easier to file taxes over thetelephone or by computer. We've created problem-solving days wheretaxpayers can work face to face with IRS customer servicerepresentatives.
For the first time this year, IRS helplines were openfor the full 24 hours preceding the final filing deadline, April15th. And in 1999, they will be open 24 hours a day, seven days aweek, all year long. This year, 40 million more callers heard ahuman voice, not a busy signal, when they called an IRS helpline.Nearly 25 million taxpayers took advantage of our new high-techfiling options -- that's a 25 percent increase from the previousyear.
Our streamlined IRS web page had nearly half a billionhits this year. All this has meant quicker refunds, less paperwork,and fewer hassles for American taxpayers.
But clearly, there is more to do to build an IRS for the21st century. This bill takes important steps in that direction. Itwill help the IRS to serve taxpayers as well as the best privatecompanies serve their customers, building on efforts to offer simplehigh-tech options for filing taxes and making tax forms more easilyavailable over the Internet.
As Secretary Rubin has said, it expands taxpayer rights,extending refund periods, protecting innocent spouses, cuttingpenalties in half for 2.5 million taxpayers who are paying what theyowe on installment plans. In all these ways the bill will give theAmerican people an IRS they deserve.
Again, let me thank the Congress for helping the IRS tomeet the challenge of serving taxpayers by giving it the time itneeds also to meet the challenge of the year 2000 computerconversion. I call on the Congress to fully fund our Year 2000effort to allow all federal agencies to respond flexibly tounforeseen difficulties that are sure to arise.
This bill shows what we can do when we work together,when we put the progress of America ahead of our partisan concerns,when we put our people over politics. That is how we have balancedthe budget for the first time in 30 years while cutting taxes,expanding trade and investing in our people. It is how I believe wecan continue to make the tax code fairer for our people.
I have asked Congress to provide targeted tax relief forAmerican families for child care, to expand pensions, to spur schoolconstruction, to protect our environment. In the context ofcomprehensive legislation to protect our children from tobacco, Ihave supported the effort to address the marriage penalty, by cuttingtaxes for American families.
Everyone of these tax cuts is prudent, bipartisan andfully paid for. For 29 years, our country ran up large deficits,quadrupling our debt in the 12 years before I became President. Itcaused us to fall behind in the global economy. It caused ourincomes to stagnate. Now we're on the verge of achieving our firstbalanced budget and our first surplus in a generation. And oureconomy is the envy of the world.
Fiscal responsibility has driven this economicexpansion. A return to irresponsibility would put that prosperity atrisk. After 29 years, it seems to me it's worth taking one year toaddress the challenge of fixing the Social Security system before westart spending the surplus on tax cuts or new spending programs,however worthy they might be.
The American people expect us to have the good sense torack up the surplus before we spend it, and to save Social Securityfirst. I know there are many people who think we should spend thesurplus now, and spend hundreds of billions of dollars on tax cuts
before we have the bipartisan plan to save Social Security. I thinkit's the wrong course for America, in no small measure because wehaven't fixed the price tag for saving Social Security and because,as we all know, we can't really predict with any absolute certaintywhat will happen 10 or 15 years from now.
I believe we should tell our children and ourgrandchildren that we think enough of them and their future thatwe're going to resist spending a penny of the surplus on things thatI would very much like to spend it on -- or you would -- until wehave met our basic obligation to our future, passing a bipartisanplan to save Social Security, which I am convinced the Congress willdo early next year. I do not intend to waver from my commitment tofuture generations, and I hope the rest of us will do the same.
Now it is my honor to sign into law the Internal RevenueService Restructuring and Reform Act. I would like to ask all themembers of Congress to come up here and join me on the stage. Thankyou very much. (Applause.)