Thursday, November 8, 2007

Across the Country, Voters Say "No" to Democrat Taxes

The overwhelming defeat of the occupational tax to fund the Louisville library system reflects voter hostility to similar Democrat plans to raise taxes around the country -- regardless of how laudable the rationale for the tax increase.

In Louisville, the library tax lost by a two to one margin, despite major plugging by Democratic Mayor Jerry Abramson and the reliably liberal Courier-Journal. The defeat of the library tax, however, was not a Louisville phenomenon but rather part of a national trend.

Nearby Indianapolis has a new Republican major, as well as a Republican majority on the city council. Mayor-elect Greg Ballard was outspent but nonetheless defeated the Democrat incumbent who had raised income taxes. The .65 percent income tax increase was devoted to law enforcement -- like libraries, a worthy goal. But the tax hike came at a time when voters were struggling to pay higher tax bills, following a state-ordered reassessment.

Washington state, not usually known as a Republican stronghold, also rejected a ballot initiative to impose higher taxes. Proposition 1 would have made Washington history as the biggest transportation tax proposal ever. The rationale: to improve traffic congestion in the Seattle area. Anyone who has ever driven in Seattle knows that traffic there is a nightmare. So the problem with the ballot initiative was the means -- higher taxes -- rather than the objective.

To protect themselves from future increases, moreover, Washington voters passed a ballot initiative that would require either voter approval or a two-thirds vote of each house to increase taxes.

Oregon voters voted down a 84.5 per pack tax increase for cigarettes -- even though the tax money was supposed to fund children's health insurance. The margin was not even close: 60 to 40. As in Louisville, voters saw through the plea to raise taxes "for the kids."

In Ohio, a bellwether state for the presidential race, Hamilton County residents rejected a proposed sales tax increase plan to fund the county jail. Now that doesn't mean that Ohio voters want criminals roaming their streets; these voters have simply drawn in a line in the sand against new taxes.

Note that all of the foregoing tax proposals were tied to projects that a majority of voters might be inclined to support, if funded in a fiscally responsible way. The voters distinguished between the goal -- libraries, mass transit, children's health insurance, law enforcement, and new jails -- and the means: an unending and ever-escalating tax burden.

The voters have given Republican candidates for '08 a clear road map to election: no new taxes. That's not just a formula to win; it's how to govern.

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