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TAXPAYER PROTECTION PLEDGE REFLECTS THE BELIEFS OF SIGNERS AND GOOD POLICY FOR CALIFORNIA

Grover G. Norquist & Patrick Gleason

January 12, 2011

[Publisher's Note: As part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary to you here at the FlashReport, I am pleased to present this column from Grover Norquist (pictured) and Patrick Gleason.  Norquist is President of Americans for Tax Reform and Gleason is ATR's director of state affairs. - Flash]

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Americans for Tax Reform sent a letter to all Taxpayer Protection Pledge signers in the California legislature last week, clarifying that a vote to refer tax increases to the ballot, as the new and improved Gov. Jerry Brown is asking them to do, would violate the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a central campaign promise they made to their constituents to “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to raise taxes.”

Since sending that letter, the professional Left in California has accused ATR of attempting to “drown the middle class” and “take a wrecking ball to K-12 education”. If that weren’t enough, the Sacramento Bee editorial board nonsensically pilloried ATR staff for lack of offspring (you would think the Malthusian-population-control wing of the Left would admire that).

A couple of points in response:

1) There is nothing subjective about the determination that voting to refer higher taxes to the ballot is a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. A vote to put tax hikes on the ballot is clearly and indisputably a failure to “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to raise taxes.”

2) Critics wrongly contend that California legislators who signed the Pledge have vowed allegiance to some single person or organization. A quick read of the simple language of the Pledge proves such allegations to be false. In fact, those who deride Pledge signers have a chicken-and-egg problem. Pledge signers are not opposed to raising taxes or referring higher taxes to the ballot simply because they signed the Pledge; the fact is that they signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge because they recognize that imposing more job-killing tax increases in one of the most onerously taxed jurisdictions on the planet is not a solution to California’s overspending problem. 

3) Critics say that ATR, in opposing a legislative referral of tax increases, is scuttling the Democratic process and preventing voters from having a say. Far from it. If Jerry Brown, the Sacramento Bee, Darrel Steinberg, et al. are dead set on putting higher taxes on the ballot – fine – go get the signatures needed to put it on the ballot. But don’t force lawmakers to do your dirty work and break a sacred campaign promise to voters in the process – a promise that was made just a few short months ago for many of the newest members of the legislature.

If Gov. Brown thinks the electorate has changed so dramatically since 2009 and Golden State residents will now go along with a massive tax increase, as his budget presupposes, he will have no problem getting the requisite signatures. Brown certainly won’t be lacking the funds necessary for a proper petition drive.

It’s no secret that California has a bevy of deep-pocketed government employee unions (how do you think the state got into this mess after all) that would be more than happy to fund a campaign for higher taxes – it’s kind of what they do. As was noted recently by The Economist, the top spender in U.S. politics from 1989 - 2004 was AFSCME. So again I say to Gov. Brown, go get the signatures.

 “You and I have different ideas of what being a Republican is all about because I'm not going to raise taxes.” That was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s response after being questioned recently as to why he wouldn’t just take the easy way out and raise taxes. Fortunately for California taxpayers but unfortunately for Gov. Brown, nearly all Republicans in the legislature have indicated that they are of the same mind as Gov. Christie.

With California Republicans following the Christie-model, which has proven to be both good policy and good politics, Gov. Brown would be well-served to look to his Democratic counterpart in the Empire State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who recently remarked that New York “has no future if it's going to be the tax capital of the nation.” The exact same could be said of California. It’s time to address what truly ails the Golden State. Simply put, it’s the spending, stupid.
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Grover Norquist is President of Americans for Tax Reform.  Patrick Gleason is ATR's director of state affairs. Bookmark and Share

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