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Ron Nehring

Suspend the gas tax? Good start. But GOP must go much bolder.

Milton Friedman was right when he said he would support any tax cut, at any time, for any reason. Government is simply too big, and too expensive – money is more productive when it’s spent by people instead of by government.

As Republicans in the legislature champion a suspension of California’s sky high gas taxes, I support it.

Yet – this cannot be the extent of our thinking.

The German philosopher Goethe once advised, “Dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” This is also sound political advice. Translation: when it comes to ideas, don’t play small ball. To get people excited, to “move the hearts of men” (and women), one must go big.

A temporary lifting of California’s onerous and punishing gas tax, which everyone knows will not happen and would be fleeting even if it did,  is not sufficient to get Californians fired up and engaged. Especially when there is so much more reform begging to be done.

Government pays on average about 40% more per square foot of construction compared to the private sector for the same product due to all of the regulations involved. Labor regulations especially are intended to make projects more expensive in order to push more money into the hands of unionized government workers and the politically active unions which provide critical support to the ruling party.

When it comes to road repair and construction, taxpayers are forced to pay more per mile due to the combination of labor rules making the project more expensive, and a lack of competition in the design, engineering, construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, and the rest of what bureaucrats call “infrastructure.”

(As an aside, Republicans need to stop using the term “infrastructure.” Nobody knows what that means. Democrats use the term when they mean “not roads.” If we are referring to roads and freeways, say it).

CalTrans should be largely privatized and charged with setting standards and bringing the private sector in for vigorous competition in building the roads to help Californians get from one place to another in less time, with fewer hassles, and lower costs. Meanwhile, the labor rules artificially driving up construction costs or limiting contracts to only unionized firms should go out the window.

The most important question in politics is “why?” Whenever our team talks about taxes, or roads, or anything else for that matter, we must answer this question. Why should someone care? Why does it matter? Why will it make their lives better?

Being the minority party is not about legislating – that’s the majority party’s job. The minority party’s responsibility is in communication and persuasion while relentlessly holding the majority party accountable for what they have done to wreck our state to the point where thousands flee every month for better opportunities in the barren deserts of Nevada and Arizona, among other places.

To communicate effectively, it brings us back to big ideas and bold solutions to the challenges facing not politicians or parties, but the normal, everyday Californians who want to continue living the American Dream in our state.

Define the problem. Describe the solution in bold terms that cut through the noise. And help people to see the benefits of those solutions.

Thanks to mismanagement in Washington and runaway inflation, 2022 will be a banner year for Republicans. If our candidates are strong and disciplined, and our solutions compelling, we will win all sorts of seats up and down the state we don’t have any business winning. It happened in 1994, and it can happen again.

Ron Nehring served as Chairman of the California Republican Party from 2007 to 2011, and was the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor in 2014.  He is a former presidential campaign spokesman for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and lives in San Diego County.