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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

In this Article, Professor Butler considers the effect of the line item veto on the tax legislative process. The Article begins with a description of the development of the crises in the federal deficit and the efforts made by Congress to limit spending so as to balance the budget. In particular, it describes the Gramm, Rudman, Hollings Act and the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 which attempted to impose structural restraints on new tax and spending legislation. When these efforts proved insufficient to balance the budget, Congress turned to the line item veto as an additional structural restraint. The Article describes the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, discusses its constitutionality, and focuses in depth on the application of the Act to the veto of certain types of federal income tax provisions called limited tax benefits. It criticizes the use of special tax bills to help individual taxpayers and suggests that the line item veto is unlikely to have the desired effect of reducing such pork barrel spending through tax bills. While the Article predicts that the veto of these special items will have little effect on the deficit, it concludes that the line item veto could, if aggressively used by the President, have some positive effect on restoring the integrity of the Internal Revenue Code.

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