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Grover G. Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform

May 24, 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.  Norquist is President of Americans for Tax Reform - Flash]

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During my visit to Sacramento today, in addition to paying the highest sales tax in the nation, I’ll get the opportunity to personally thank Republican legislators for their commitment to California taxpayers.  As it stands, Republican legislators in the Senate and Assembly are the only force preventing a tragic sequel to the largest state tax increase in U.S. history.

It’s not lost on me that legislators who signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge are frequently accused by Democrats and the establishment media (same thing, really) of pledging their allegiance to me or the organization that I run, Americans for Tax Reform. This could not be further from the truth and if the fourth estate did their due diligence and adhered to their duty to inform – rather than misinform – they would see that the Pledge that nearly every Republican member of the legislature has signed is clearly made to their constituents. You won’t read it in the Sacramento Bee, which has zero diversity of opinion on its editorial board, but Republican legislators aren’t opposing higher taxes simply because they signed a piece of paper. The fact is that they signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge because they recognize that raising taxes in this high tax and heavy regulation state will only destroy jobs, not create them, and will do nothing to address the real problem – overspending.

The state of California has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Now this statement drives Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats nuts, but it’s backed up by numbers. Over the last decade, had the state lived within its means and kept spending in line with population and inflation, the state would have spent $300 billion less during that period and be sitting on a sizable surplus right now. Brown and the union bosses who control the legislature may not like to hear that, but, as John Adams once remarked, facts are stubborn things.

Republicans aren’t simply the party of “no” either. Just as Congressman Paul Ryan has educated President Obama on how to balance the federal budget without raising taxes, so too have Republicans in Sacramento shown Gov. Brown how to put expenditures in line with revenues without further burdening taxpayers, or reducing education spending.

Speaker Perez told the New York Times earlier this month that in opposing Gov. Brown’s budget “ you can’t just say no” and that you have to “come up with an alternative that creates comparable savings.” Well, Republican legislators have done that and then some.

This whole spending cuts in exchange for tax increases game never works out well for Republicans or taxpayers or other living things. The tax hikes end up being very real and the spending cuts never come to fruition. History bears out this fact.  There was the 1982 deal that President Reagan cut with congressional Democrats that promised a $3 cut inspending for every $1 increase in taxes. The tax hikes were real; the spending restraint was not. Reagan referred to this as the greatest mistake of his administration.  George H.W. Bush didn’t learn from Reagan’s mistake and was also snookered by Democrats, agreeing to a deal that was supposed to reduce spending by $2 for every $1 increase in taxes. (Bush was a cheaper date.) Again, the tax cuts were real and the spending cuts were imaginary.

This is why today at the national level Speaker Boehner and congressional Republicans have wisely rejected the Bowles-Simpson plan and why the Gang of Six collapsed. Just like their partisan comrades in Washington, DC; Steinberg, Perez, and company have no desire or intentions to actually rein in unsustainable spending and entitlement programs. GOP legislators in California are wise not to be duped into believing otherwise.

The challenges facing the state are not unique to California. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo inherited a budgetary train wreck on par with the one confronting Golden State lawmakers. Remarking that his state has no future as the tax capital of the nation, Cuomo rectified his state’s sizable overspending problem without taking another pound of flesh from heavily burdened New York taxpayers. The difference between Cuomo and Brown is that Cuomo decided to treat his constituents like adults and own up to fiscal realities. He also had the courage to stand up to government employee unions. Brown remains unwilling to cut his puppet strings.

In state after state, governors are saying “no” to any and all net tax hikes and forcing their oversized governments to focus on necessary spending reduction: Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Maine, South Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and the list goes on.  These states have shown that once taxes are taken off the table, and only then, will the debate on how to restrain spending begin.

Governor Brown should thank the public sector labor unions for taking so much money from their members and giving it to him to win elections. But that thanks should put an end to it.  He should not show his appreciation by continuing to pillage taxpayers and the private sector in a futile attempt to preserve an unsustainable status quo.

Grover Norquist is President of Americans for Tax Reform.

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