When you hear various political pundits and leftwing activists complain about the “simple-minded” rigidity of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, know this: They are attempting to belittle and undermine the Pledge for one reason and one reason only….
They know exactly how extremely effective it is.
For a perfect example of just how much the left hates the simple “no-new-taxes” political message, consider the references by Las Vegas Sun editor Brian Greenspun in a rant…er, op/ed published in his paper on Sunday.
Greenspun slammed Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval for adhering to “a ridiculous no-tax pledge.” He wrote that the governor “did a stupid thing by….promising not to raise taxes.” And later again complained about Sandoval’s “silly adherence to his no-tax pledge.”
Why do liberals such as Brian Greenspun have such unrestrained antipathy for the notion of a politician taking a solid position against raising taxes, running on a promise not to raise taxes, and then keeping their promise once elected?
Simple: Because they vehemently disagree with what that promise means.
It means government won’t grow at an exponential rate. It means taxes are high enough already to fund what conservatives believe are the essential roles of government. It means legislators will have live on what taxpayers are willing to provide in the form of an “allowance” rather on a Cadillac-style wish list of government programs and services.
It means the state government, like Nevada’s families and small businesses, will simply have to live within its means because no-new-taxes candidates refuse to give the government a raise in its allowance.
Folks such as Mr. Greenspun don’t believe Nevadans are taxed enough already and don’t believe the government is spending enough. So naturally, anyone who promises not to raise taxes must be “ridiculous,” “stupid” and “silly,” right?
Its Power is in Its Simplicity
But let’s get back to the effectiveness of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge that has Mr. Greenspun’s knickers in a knot.
The Pledge is quite simple, which also drives the left nuts because (a) anyone who can read plain English can understand it, and (b) there isn’t any loophole language in it allowing politicians to weasel their way out of their commitment.
“I (insert candidate’s name) pledge to the taxpayers of the (insert number) district of the state of Nevada and all the people of this state that I will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.”
It doesn’t say the person will oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes….“unless that increase is of taxes which a previous governor and Legislature raised and promised the people would expire.”
Or….“unless the Supreme Court rules we can’t use funds dedicated to building a wastewater treatment plant to fill a gap in the state’s budget.”
Or….“unless it becomes too politically painful.”
And the simple, consistent, WRITTEN Pledge is the critical point here.
Politicians Simply aren’t as Good as Their Word
Just as former Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio verbally “guaranteed” he wouldn’t support higher taxes in his primary race against She Who Must Not Be Named in 2008, he refused to put his commitment in writing. Which is like telling the bank you “guarantee” you’ll make the monthly mortgage or car payments, but won’t sign any contracts.
See how far you get with that.
Likewise, Gov. Sandoval refused to put his commitment to not increasing taxes in writing despite making verbal assurances every bit as strong as Sen. Raggio’s.
Indeed, in a radio interview a year ago, the host asked the following straight-forward question: “Is there any situation in which you would consider raising taxes?”
The governor’s equally straight-forward answer: “No.”
And yet when the Supreme Court ruled that the governor couldn’t use $62 million to build that wastewater treatment plant, instead of cutting that $62 million out of his budget, the governor opted to instead raise taxes.
And that’s (a) why so many conservatives are disappointed in him, and (b) why it is SO important to get candidates to put their tax promise in writing.
Now stick with me here for a second, because I want to be fair to the governor.
It’s Not about the Court Decision…
The Supreme Court decision applied only to the $62 million for the wastewater treatment facility fund. However, it was the governor’s opinion that the Court’s decision on that $62 million fund could very well apply to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of funding the state was also taking from various other local funds.
And as governor, the governor decided it was not in the best interest of the state to build a budget based on the possibility that sometime in the next year, the Court could similarly rule that the state had to give that money back, as well.
Fine. That’s a reasonable concern and reasonable position in which reasonable people could disagree.
But the question then became how to fill that unexpected $600 million hole rather than the $62 million hole.
Now, to put this all in perspective, it’s important to keep a couple of figures in mind without your eyes glazing over too badly.
….It’s the Spending, Stupid
The first figure is what it’s costing to run the government in the general fund right now, in this current two-year cycle that ends on June 30th: About $6.4 billion.
The second figure is what Gov. Sandoval, as a candidate, said the government should spend in the general fund in the upcoming two-year cycle after rolling back government to the 2007 level. That figure: $5.2 billion….or about $1.2 billion less than what we’re currently spending.
So follow me here.
The governor originally proposed, as a candidate, to spend $5.2 billion. Once elected, he proposed a budget of $5.8 billion, adding in $600 million worth of gimmicks and local government raids.
Then, after the Economic Forum met in May and projected additional revenue thanks to an improving economy, along with some other adjustments, the governor revised his budget upwards by $400 million to $6.2 billion.
Then the Supreme Court ruling came down and the governor felt uncomfortable using the full $600 million in gimmicks and raids he tacked onto his original budget.
So if you subtract that full $600 million from May’s revised proposed budget, you’ll end up a little over $5.6 billion for a two-year budget….which is still $400 million HIGHER than the 2007 level the governor said we should return to.
In other words, even if you give the governor the benefit of the doubt and accept he made the right call in not using the full $600 million in jeopardy because of the Court decision, there was still no reason to extend the $600 million worth of “sunsets” since cutting that amount from his revised budget still put him above the budget figure he campaigned on!
So what we have now is literally a general fund budget that is at least a BILLION DOLLARS higher than what the governor said it should be.
And that, ladies and gentlemen; boys and girls, is why we say no new taxes.
It’s not because the individual tax increases are necessarily going to put businesses out of business in and of themselves or force families onto welfare. It’s because those little, teensy-tiny tax hikes add up to HUGE amounts of government spending which allows the government to do so many things it shouldn’t be doing.
The thing that should trouble fiscal conservatives about this really bad budget deal isn’t so much the fact that it raises taxes by $600 million, but that it raises general fund spending by over a BILLION DOLLARS.
(BTW, the administration claims it actually reduced spending by $500 million in this deal. Don’t you believe it. They are not comparing apples to apples and, I don’t believe, comparing 2011 to 2010 instead of 2009. But let me get back to you on that one after we research it a little further.)
Pledge Signers Honored Their Word
With the 2011 tax hike deal now sealed with a kiss (of death), I guarantee you we’ll be right back here in the same place two years from now, with Democrats pushing to make the twice-“temporary” tax hikes PERMANENT. Because when a politician is faced with a tough decision on whether to cut spending or raise taxes, they will always defer to raising taxes…just like they did again this session.
The ONLY way to limit or shrink government is to limit or shrink the amount of money that goes to the government. And a written Pledge not to raise taxes is BY FAR more powerful in restraining that tax-hiking urge than a verbal commitment.
Here, I’ll prove it.
In the Assembly, every Republican who signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge voted AGAINST extending the sunsets. On the other hand, not one of the ten Republicans who voted FOR extending the sunsets signed the Pledge.
Indeed, catch this first ad of the 2012 campaign season which was just released against Assemblyman Scott Hammond today. It features a video clip of a debate in May 2010 in which Hammond declared that he didn’t sign the Pledge because “When I tell you face-to-face that I’m not going to raise taxes, I don’t think I have to sign a piece of paper to prove it.”
In other words, read my lips.
And just like ol’ 41, Scott Hammond spoke out of both sides of his mouth with a forked tongue. He voted on Sunday night to raise taxes $600 million.
In the Senate, all four Republicans who signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge voted AGAINST extending the sunsets, in addition to one who signed the Pledge before becoming a senator (Settelmeyer) and one who signed it after (Brower).
On the other hand, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer – who steadfastly refused to sign the Pledge – told a reporter just a couple weeks ago that the only way he’d vote to extend the sunsets is if Jesus, himself, walked through the door. That’s a pretty darned strong verbal assurance, wouldn’t you say?
Nevertheless, despite the absence of the Second Coming, Kieckhefer caved and voted on Monday to raise taxes $600 million.
So the lesson of the 2011 legislative session is crystal clear: Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never NEVER trust a politician’s verbal assurance that they won’t raise taxes.
Get it in writing; preferably in blood….BEFORE they’re elected; not after.
The Taxpayer Protection Pledge works. It’s the single most effective way to restrain government. No matter how silly, stupid or ridiculous the left “says” it is, know that they don’t think it’s silly, stupid or ridiculous at all.
They are scared to death of it!
Listen to what they say about the Pledge and read what they write about it. Their disdain is couched in high-falutin’, holier-than-thou, my-sh*t-don’t-stink verbiage….but you can smell the fear.
Conservatives want Republicans to sign the Pledge; liberals don’t. Why? Because Republicans who sign the Pledge usually don’t vote for tax hikes and those who don’t do. If you sign the Tax Pledge, you’re with fiscal conservatives; if you don’t, you’re more likely with tax-and-spend liberals.
There are, however, two rare exceptions in this year’s budget fuster-cluck. So let me give a major league shout-out to Assemblyman Cresent Hardy and Assemblyman John Ellison.
These were the only two Republicans who voted against the $600 million tax hike/sunset extension despite not signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and despite being put under TREMENDOUS pressure to vote against the interests of the constituents who voted for them.
Well done, gentlemen. When push came to shove; when the rubber met the road; when the going got tough; when it was time to separate the men from the boys….you two came through for Nevada’s citizens and taxpayers. You have our gratitude, our admiration and our respect.
In conclusion, here’s my message for Ass. Mark Sherwood, the lead GOP “surrender monkey” negotiator who voted FOR the $600 million tax hike….
Tick, tick, tick.