There is an unattributed quotation that says, “The average taxpayer is the first of America’s natural resources to be exhausted.” The American people have turned away from a big, activist federal government because they feel they have been forgotten; in fact, taxpayer resources have long been exhausted.

Today, average Americans, forgotten by the bloated bureaucratic culture of Washington, get up in the morning, get their kids ready for school, pack their lunches, go off to work, come home, fix dinner, make sure their kids do their homework, do some housework, and go to bed only to start the routine all over again the next morning. In the process, average Americans are working harder today than ever before, but taking home less and less money. Why? Because they are paying more in taxes today than ever before. In 1950, the average American paid one dollar out of every 50 dollars earned in federal taxes. Today, the average American pays one dollar out of every four.

In two-income families, the second wage earner is working just to pay state, local, and federal taxes—a nearly 40 percent tax burden on total family income. There is a chapter that normally appears in the federal budget called “Generational Forecasts,” which states that if we don’t change the way government on all levels spends our money, by the time children born after the year 1992 enter the workforce, they will be paying a combined state, local, and federal tax rate between 80 and 90 percent! Think of it. Our children, the future average American workers, will be going through the same daily routine as we are today, but only being able to keep 10 to 20 percent of what they earn to pay for housing, transportation, food, and clothing. This is hardly the legacy that we want to leave our children. The scary thing is, we are already halfway there.

The American worker, the American family, and America’s children need not only tax relief but tax reform. What needs immediate attention is judicial taxation. Case after case has been documented in which unelected, activist federal judges have directly or indirectly caused state or local taxes to be increased as part of a remedy. These cases range from public works cases to school segregation cases.

I cite, for example, the current dilemma facing the people of the Rockford, Illinois, Public School District 205. In an effort to save protracted legal fees, the Rockford School District plead guilty to a racial discrimination lawsuit. The evidence was overwhelming, and Federal Judge Stanley Roszkowski (Magistrate Michael Mahoney now presiding) would have found them guilty anyway. This left the school district looking the people of Rockford square in the eye, saying: “We have perpetrated an injustice, we must now right that wrong.”

Little did anyone know what fate awaited the families, children, and taxpayers, all wanting to provide an equal, quality education to all of their children. School District 205 in Rockford, Illinois, encompasses several surrounding communities. This is a metropolitan area of 250,000 people. Instead of finding a community-based solution that we can all get behind, an activist judge has taken it upon himself to play school board, superintendent, principal, and teacher. And, of course, he tells the families which non-neighborhood school their children will attend. The price tag has already reached $80 million with another $25 million already committed to be spent. On November 12, 1996, the federal judge ordered yet another $50 million tax increase. The people of the Rockford school district cannot continue to take on this huge cost, and at the same time pay other state and federal taxes. This is clearly taxation without representation, and is serving to divide our community further.

As a result of these forced tax increases, families are moving out of Rockford, senior citizens either are or are on the verge of losing their homes—homes that they have paid for—because they can’t afford these tax increases. Further, these tax increases are dividing the community, not bringing it together; in fact, there are many members of Rockford’s black community who fear that these judicial tax increases are hurting and straining race relations in our city. The worst result of this tax-and-spend judicial activism is that the children are not getting the education they need.

To remedy this situation, I introduced legislation during the 104th Congress that I believe is long overdue. The Judicial Mandate and Remedy Clarification Act of 1996 seeks to limit the authority of federal courts to fashion remedies that require state and local jurisdictions to assess, levy, or collect taxes in any way, shape, or form. The legislation has nothing to do with race, how much money people make, or where they live. It has everything to do with keeping unelected activist federal judges from destroying our communities. Keep in mind that judicial taxation is not limited to school districts. Federal judges have ordered tax increases to build public housing and to expand jails. Any state or local government is subject to such rulings from the federal courts. My legislation is about taxpayers paying for federal court remedies involving the raising of taxes without the permission of the taxpayers. A court-ordered remedy should be tempered by the community’s ability to pay for it, without raising taxes.

The legislation which I authored in the House, H.R. 3100, the counterpart to S. 1817—introduced by Chairman Grassley and Chairman Hatch—does not ban judicial taxation. I understand the position of those who loathe judicial taxation and want it outlawed outright. But my research has led me to believe that an outright ban on judicial taxation would not work. Let me explain why.

Municipalities and states enter into legal contracts and bond issues. Businesses, and individuals who enter into such contracts or purchase municipal bonds, would have no guarantees that these obligations would be met if a judge were unable to enforce these obligations. Thus, courts have been constitutionally allowed by the Supreme Court to enter “structural injunctions,” i.e., an order structuring how repayment of the obligations is to be made. This type of judicial order would almost certainly be precluded under an outright ban, and thus an outright ban simply would not be in our best interest.

My legislation takes an alternative approach, requiring that six criteria be met before a federal judge can issue an order, or agree to a settlement, that would have the effect of raising taxes. The six criteria the court would be required to prove under my legislation are: one, that there are not other means available to remedy the deprivation in question; two, such a tax would not contribute to or exacerbate the deprivation intended to be remedied; three, the proposed tax will not result in a loss of revenue for the affected political subdivision; four, the proposed tax will not result in a loss or depreciation of property values; five, the tax will not undermine the taxing authority set up by the political subdivision; and, six, the plans submitted by the political subdivision will not effectively redress the deprivations at issue. An additional point is that because local taxes are “extended” or reworked each year, a judge will have to make these findings annually.

Ultimately, if the school board, municipality, or state government feels that taxes have to be raised to address problems, then it should go to the people and ask for an increase. Otherwise, a political subdivision should work within its means. There is no such thing as a “school district tax dollar,” just as there is no such thing as a “federal tax dollar.” The money belongs to the people. Judicial taxation is a back door method to take people’s hard-earned money without representation. However, since judicial taxation cannot be banned outright, our approach sets up the very strict criteria necessary to restrict it.

The people of Rockford and other communities across our country continue to be placed in situations where the federal courts adopt remedies which communities are forced to pay for with a blank check. Every family and governmental body has to live within its own budgetary restraints, and the federal courts must be held to these same standards. The Constitution is the document that grants the authority to Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Judiciary. Nowhere within that document does it say that anyone at the federal level of government outside Congress can institute a tax increase— period. That’s what it says, and that’s what it should mean.

We are currently debating reforms to our federal tax code. We are studying the impact of federal tax policy on personal savings and spending, the impact on state and local governments, as well as the overall effect on the economy. Curbing the now unbridled power of activist, federal judges to raise state and local taxes is a necessary part of this tax reform initiative. But, equally important, it will return to the people the sovereign power to solve their community problems. The power of the people is, after all, one of the self-evident principles on which this nation was built.