No new taxes a tough proposition - Tucson Local Media: Editorials

No new taxes a tough proposition

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Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 11:00 pm

I have met Grover Norquist and read his book “Leave Us Alone.” I generally concur with his thesis about building a political coalition around those who want little from government, and recognize the motivation behind his asking legislators to sign off on a “no new taxes” pledge. I agree that in most states Americans are overtaxed and over-regulated. But the detail devil again arises.

Unlike almost every other state, Arizonans were dumb enough to pass a constitutional amendment barring their legislators from changing anything the voters have passed. That means billions of dollars are in the state budget that simply cannot be touched. Other parts of the state budget must bear the full brunt of lost revenues. Republicans need to concentrate on this problem by taking another statewide vote on this question, and some are moving that way. Others oppose the idea, as they expect all the special interest groups who benefit from the current system to band together to defeat it.

Governor Brewer grasps that problem and wants that repeal to go on the ballot with a proposed sales tax hike. Those who signed the “no new taxes pledge” have checked with Norquist and discovered he doesn’t allow cop-outs like letting voters decide tax hikes. I then question why certain GOP legislators wish to allow voters to decide sales tax hikes for things like baseball stadiums and theme parks, but I digress.

There are certain realities in actual governance that put stress on adherence to principles. The stresses usually occur when the principles bump into each other. Unless you are an anarcho-capitalist like my old friend Murray Rothbard, the center-right in all of its other manifestations has an obligation to fund certain functions of government at some level. They also have a worse problem in dealing with moneys already spent by prior regimes and obligations they incurred even for dumb stuff. Rothbard advocated the expedient of simply reneging things like the national debt, but I doubt if anybody else including Norquist buys that one.

Stuck with bad decisions made by others, some from their own party, Arizona Republicans should ask Norquist for a waiver. To begin with, there are some new taxes and fees besides raising current ones that are in order.

A tax on wire transfers of cash going out of the country for anyone not using an existing bank account. That would affect mostly illegals and dope dealers. Tax them, please.

Likewise, those with license plates from foreign countries should be forced to post cash bond on the spot when getting a traffic ticket. And the well-worn cop-out of taxing vacant land on its use instead of its zoning needs changing. Known as “rent-a-cow,” agricultural land on its way to housing projects is re-zoned but still taxed on its former classification. Why enviros haven’t pushed this one is a mystery and it would put millions in property taxes into local schools.

Any final sales tax increase package must include a firm deadline for removal and a provision to allow legislators to modify voter approved measures, preferably on an individual basis, making them again stand on their merits. It would be a long ballot, but it would prohibit special interest groups from coalescing on one measure.

I am always amused at the Democrat talking point that conservatives are narrow dogmatists married to ideology. I find nothing narrower than their doctrinaire attempts to increase both taxes and the scope of government that often borders on state worship. About all I hear from them is the need for “some” tax that isn’t subject to economic downturns while they increase the others.

And that would be? Liberal critics are invited to submit their answers.

Listen to Emil Franzi and Tom Danehy on KVOI 690 AM Saturdays 1-4 p.m.

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