Public Support for Progressive Taxation & The Failure of the Anti-Tax Movement

By approving Measures 66 and 67 this week, Oregonians not only expressed their desire to protect services, but became the latest state to reject the hollow manipulations of right-wing anti-tax rhetoric.

- Just last November, voters in Maine and Washington rejected anti-tax initiatives , including so-called "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" (TABOR) initiatives meant to impose a rigid strait jacket on revenue options for state legislatures.
- In 2008, similar measures were defeated overwhelmingly in Massachusetts, North Dakota and Oregon.  In all three states, proposed initiatives that would have slashed or, in the case of Massachusetts, completely eliminated the income tax, were rejected at the polls.
- In 2006, voters in Maine, Nebraska and Oregon each rejected TABOR ballot initiatives.  This came on top of judges and other officials rejecting TABOR initiatives in Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma and Missouri due to fraud and manipulation by anti-tax campaigns.
- In 2005, voters in Colorado--the only state ever to approve a TABOR initiative--decided by initiative to significantly weaken the TABOR rules.  This followed years of declining education and health standards due to the state's as a result of the implementation of the TABOR.

State Legislatures Reject Anti-Tax Rhetoric:  The string of failures of the anti-tax movement at the ballot box is paralleled by state legislatures passing revenue increases across the country.  In 2009 alone, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin instituted either a permanent or temporary reform of personal income taxes.  Another 11 states considered or enacted business tax increases to help deal with budget deficits and even more states raised other taxes or fees to address the fiscal crisis in state across the country.

The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC) notes that out of the 28 right-wing attempts by to introduce TABOR legislatively, Colorado is the only state that has adopted this disastrous policy.  State lawmakers have watched as Colorado's experience with TABOR has led to an increase in the number of adults and children without health insurance and a severe decline in education funding.

Empty Threats by the Anti-Tax Right:  While right-wing leaders like Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform like to make threats of punishing legislators who raise taxes, anti-tax forces have largely revealed themselves to be weak paper tigers.  After New Jersey increased taxes on the wealthy in 2004, the Democratic House majority increased to its largest size in three decades the following year, while progressives in Maryland and Minnesota continued to maintain and grow strong legislative majorities in the wake of approving increased taxes on high-income earners in 2008 and 2007.

In 2009, BISC found that "the Grover Norquist, Club for Growth, Glenn Beck, Tea Party crowd tried to use the bleak budget picture as an opportunity to ratchet down even harder as states look to find the revenue necessary to protect priorities, create jobs, and get their economies going -- but voters rejected that failed approach."

Even many conservative politicians have rejected these type of policies.  For instance, Tom Slade, the former head of the Florida Republican party, dismisses Norquist's ideas and finds his anti-tax pledge to be illogical and dangerous.  Slade states, "[y]ou don't know how wide or deep the river's going to get. Saying I'm never going to use a life boat seemed foolish to me."  After a Republican State Senator from Virginia, Robert Hurt, voted for a $1.4 billion tax increase, Norquist vowed to back a primary challenge against him.  Despite this, the Senator won re-election and is now favored to win the party's nomination for Congress.

Public Opinion Supports Funding Public Investments: Polling shows that 79 percent of the public believes "government investments in education, infrastructure, and science are necessary to ensure America's long-term economic growth."  Accordingly, during an economic downturn when so many working families are struggling, voters are likely to support policies to raise revenue, strengthen public programs, and provide safeguards to those who have been hurt by the recession.

TAX NEWS - may 2010

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