Down in the Texas state capitol for the day, enjoying both the buzz of activity that comes with the legislature actually being in session (they only have regular sessions for five month, once every two years) and the good ole boy lobbyists stalking the halls, making deals. Just had an interesting interview with a Republican State Senator in which he raised an interesting point. Basically, he was complaining about how the conservative movement had essentially been reduced to one single, inviolable principle: never raise taxes ever. It’s crazy he said. “I’m as much against having my taxes raised as anybody, but the the voters don’t send us to the capitol just to make sure taxes don’t get raised, they send us here to spend their money wisely. And if there’s some program that can benefit the residents of the state, then we should fund it.”
But instead, Grover Norquist’s infamous no-tax pledge has created an untenable situation across the country, one in which state governments are increasingly resorting to gimmicks, tricks and the outright Russian-style auctioning off of state assets in order to fund government. This despite the fact, that, as this Republican legislator pointed out to me, spending on social programs is quite popular. “The notion that these are programs Democrats want and Republicans abhor may have been true thirty years ago, but I feel like there’s been a shift. Now, everybody wants the programs, but one group [the Republicans] is unwilling to pay for them, and the other group [the Democrats] is unable to pay for them.”
The only way this is going to change is if there’s a) an organized lobbying effort on the part of citizens and interest groups to increase taxes b) some bold legislators vote for tax increases and find out that they won’t necessarily get ridden out of town by angry voters. But I was amazed that this Republican legislator was so frank about the problem. And googling around I see that Republican presidential front-runners Rudy Giuliani and John McCain have both yet to sign the no new taxes pledge. It does suggest that the “tax revolt” may indeed be coming to a close.