The Taxpayer Protection Pledge was created by Americans for Tax Reform in 1986, with the blessings and endorsement of then President Ronald Reagan, as a way to provide clarity and unity as to which candidates for the United States Senate and House of Representatives were committing to opposing tax increases and any efforts to raise taxes. As of March of this year, 41 U.S. Senators and 231 Members of Congress (a solid majority) have signed the pledge, including every Republican on the large California delegation. Over the last quarter century, the pledge has spread broadly at the local level — much of it a dynamic process as candidates for non-federal offices wanted to sign the pledge as well. At the state level, there are over 1100 pledge signers that include many Governors and a vast array of state legislators. There is no doubt that the existence of the Pledge has been positive and constructive — and has helped to do what it says in its title — protect taxpayers.
Yesterday I had the good fortune to go up to Sacramento (I’m still here, actually) and spend the day with Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist. We visited with a good number of taxpayer advocates in the legislature who have signed the pledge, as well as with some key pro-taxpayer groups outside of the Capitol. Last evening the legislative Taxpayers Caucus which is comprised of 30 legislators held a reception with Grover Norquist as their special guests. Joining the legislators and ATR’s President were Jon Coupal of the the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Lew Uhler of Americans for Tax Reform, Board of Equalization Members George Runner and Michelle Steel, Patrick Gleason of ATR, and yours truly. I am pleased to share that the resolve is still very strong to stop Jerry Brown and the liberal Democrats who control the state legislature from raising taxes — especially now, during the recession, when so many families are trying to figure out how to cope with scarcity of income.
The left (both Democrat officeholders and in the main stream media) like to portray the Pledge as something different than what it actually is. The pledge is a commitment between a candidate and the people he or she seeks to represent. It is not a pledge to Americans for Tax Reform, or to any other group. The pledge is completely voluntary — no one is forced to take it, and unfortunately for Californians, a majority of the Golden State’s federal and state legislators will not take the pledge. That said, we should all appreciate those that are willing to do so — it represents an important commitment.
On a more technical note, in a story in the Sacramento Bee today, there is an issue about a state legislator who signed the pledge in their first election to the State Assembly in 2008, who apparently makes a distinction that he did not “resign” the pledge when he ran for re-election last year. Americans for Tax Reform’s website is very clear — candidates are asked to sign the pledge when they first run for a particular office (whether that be Congress, State Senate or whatever). That pledge is considered to be in force as long as that signer still holds the same office. But if they run for a different office, then they would need to sign a new pledge. To state it another way, for clarity, someone who runs for an office is only asked to sign the pledge when the first run — when seeking re-election to the same job, they are not asked to sign again. Of course, as a practical matter, in almost every instance, an officeholder’s tough election is that first one — must incumbents, especially in California, tend to have rather easy-going on their subsequent re-election(s). Anyone who has signed the pledge can easily renounce their pledge, I suppose, and say that they no longer intend on keeping their pledge. For my part, I have never pursued an incumbent officeholder to sign a new pledge if they have already signed one — it is presumed to be in force throughout their tenure.
It is also pretty obvious, on the face of it, that when you sign a pledge to “…oppose efforts to raise taxes…” that this would include opposing legislation that would put a tax increase on the ballot. Wouldn’t you think so?
In closing, if you haven’t done so lately, contact your representatives. If they have signed the pledge, say thank you. If they haven’t, urge them to do so. You can find a list of all pledge signers on ATR’s website here.