Blast from 'Bama
voters just voted down a big tax increase. What is it
about "no tax hikes" that Virginia
politicians don't understand?
September 9, 2003, the voters of Alabama rejected a
ballot measure to increase taxes by $1.2 billion.
Opposition to the measure was almost two to one.
outcome was a clear and resounding defeat for
Republican Gov. Bob Riley. It also sent a powerful
message to other states, particularly South
Carolina, where the Republican governor is pushing a
similar tax increase.
sharp contrast, Tennesseeís newly elected
governor, Democrat Phil Bredesen, is cutting
spending instead of proposing a tax increase. He
follows a Republican governor who urged
unsuccessfully that Tennessee enact a state income
tax to close a nearly $1 billion budget gap.
labels provide little or no help to voters nowadays,
even in Virginia. Voters are looking for more than
pitiful plaints from elected officials that they
have no option other than to raise taxes.
party in Virginia is offering clear and consistent
leadership on the issues of taxes and spending.
Republicans will pay a far greater price for this
lack of clarity and constancy than Democrats because
the Republican Party depends on a coherent
philosophy for its appeal. The Democratic Party, as
the late Theodore White observed in The Making of
the President: 1960, is not organized around a
governing philosophy, but is essentially a coalition
of interests generally pressing for an expanded role
continue winning the support of a governing majority
of voters, Republicans must project an image of
representing the average taxpayerís interest. That
interest is too often displaced by special interests
demanding their particular favors from government.
government is reduced to nothing more than a contest
over who gets what from government, politicians seek
to please special interests and the size of
government tends to expand. Tocqueville noted in his
Democracy in America that politicians try to bribe
the voters with their own money. The only effective
way to counter that practice is to find candidates
willing to run for office on a pledge of limited
government in the interest of all of the people.
Virginians stand back from the immediate political
debates and look at long-term trends, they are
obliged to ask whether the inevitable consequences
of those trends are acceptable. Letís look
at some of those trends.
the period 1996-2003, state government spending
increased by more than 46 percent. Over that same
period, the rate of growth of the stateís
population, the rate of inflation, and the rate of
expansion of the stateís economy were all far
spending on state programs has not been reduced from
one biennium to another. The state has merely
reduced the levels budgeted for spending, and those
levels were predicated on revenue projections that
proved too optimistic.
new budget reflects cost assumptions that far
outstrip the growth in the population to be served
and the rate of inflation. This is one place where
discipline must be asserted. Another is in how we
project what revenues will be available over a
two-year budget cycle.
find it exceedingly difficult to control their
impulse to spend when economic forecasts are
optimistic. We cannot afford to continue the past
trend in state spending that far exceeds the growth
in the economy that sustains government programs. The
majority of voters get it. The mystery is that many
September 22, 2003