Bringing the Economy Home

Ten Idaho Lawmakers Sign Norquist’s Anti-Tax Pledge

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Members of the supercommittee meeting recently

As you’ve probably heard by now, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction’s negotiations failed this week.  Dubbed the supercommittee, it was charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in debt savings over the next decade.  Now the political finger-pointing is well underway.

One of the people being blamed for the supercommittee’s failure (often by Democrats, and on occasion by Republicans), is Grover Norquist.  He’s a longtime lobbyist who runs the group Americans for Tax Reform.  Norquist is known for getting hundreds of lawmakers from around the country to sign a pledge promising never to raise taxes.

Idaho’s entire congressional delegation has signed the pledge, and so have six state lawmakers:

  • Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID)
  • Senator James Risch (R-ID)
  • Representative Raul Labrador (R-ID)
  • Representative Michael Simpson (R-ID)
  • State Sen. Shirley McKague (R-Meridian)
  • State Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett (R-Challis)
  • State Rep. Phil Hart (R-Hayden)
  • State Rep. Peter Nielsen (R-Mountain Home)
  • State Rep. Paul E. Shepherd (R-Riggins)
  • State Rep. JoAn E. Wood (R-Rigby)

Grover Norquist was profiled on CBS News 60 Minutes this week.  Here’s how correspondent Steve Kroft describes Norquist:

Grover Norquist has been called both the “dark wizard of the right’s anti-tax cult” and “the single most effective conservative activist in the country.” He is a libertarian ideologue who believes that Washington is controlling our lives through the taxes it raises to fund big government. And he’s said that he wants to shrink it to a size where it could be drowned in a bathtub.

As The Hill reported earlier this month, some lawmakers want out of the pledge, including Idaho’s Rep. Mike Simpson.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) signed the pledge in 1998, when he first ran for Congress, and said he didn’t even know he was still on the list until earlier this year. “I thought it was for the next Congress,” Simpson said. “If it sticks with you forever, why do they ask you to re-sign it every two years?”

Earlier this month Rep. Simpson joined his colleague Sen. Mike Crapo in urging even greater deficit cuts than the supercommittee had set out to achieve.  The two want to see $4 trillion in cuts to the federal debt, and according to this local blog, that would include looking at new tax revenue.

Whether that plan includes a tax increase is something of a matter of semantics. Simpson co-authored a letter this month saying new revenues have to be on the table. Crapo, a member of the Senate’s bipartisan deficit “Gang of Six,” spoke today about a plan that would “grow our economy by lowering tax rates, broadening the base and simplifying the tax code to make it flatter, fairer and more competitive.” To some, that is still a tax increase, even if Crapo isn’t calling it one. – Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman

As for the failed supercommittee, all six Republicans on the panel signed Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.  The Guardian reports it was the issue of tax increases that broke supercommittee negotiations.

Any Republican who fails to sign that pledge faces a tough primary challenge. Any Republican contemplating supporting even a minimal increase will be reminded of that written promise.

All six Republicans on the supercommittee were signatories.

It was the tax issue that broke the supercommittee. The Democrats insisted on increases: the Republicans refused. It was the tax issue that led one of the Democrats, John Kerry, the 2004 presidential candidate, to describe Norquist as the 13th member of the committee.

Do you think Idaho lawmakers should be bound by the Norquist pledge?  Tell us what you think in our comments section.


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