Ken Cuccinelli is a tried-and-true conservative politician who believes in the principles of limited government and opposes higher taxes, right? Not so fast.
In a recent meeting with business leaders, the Attorney General stated that he would not be making a written commitment to Virginia voters to oppose higher taxes by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The Pledge reads as follows:
I, ____________, pledge to the
taxpayers of the State of _________
that I will oppose and veto
any and all efforts to increase taxes.
The language of this written commitment is not new. In fact, the federal Taxpayer Protection Pledge was created in 1986 at the request of President Ronald Reagan as part of an effort to protect the lower marginal tax rates created by the Tax Reform Act of that year.
Voters, especially conservative ones, value a simple Yes or No answer in writing on higher taxes. That’s exactly why 219 US Congressmen and 39 US Senators have signed the Pledge to their constituents to oppose higher taxes. At the state level, more than 1,000 state legislators have taken the Pledge including 30 Virginia legislators and Ken Cuccinelli, who signed it in 2009 in his bid for Attorney General.
Though Ken signed the Pledge in 2009, he’s suggested that he’s not going to put in concrete terms his opposition to higher taxes this year. Does it matter?
With four years of service as Virginia’s Attorney General and a looming gubernatorial campaign, his stance on a number of issues is clear. He’s anti-Obamacare, pro-life, pro-gun, pro-property rights, believes in school choice, supports offshore drilling, prioritizes the transportation “crisis,” has a jobs-centric campaign, Terry McAuliffe is running for Governor, and he says he’s opposed to raising taxes. Sound familiar? That’s because the year is 2009 and the candidate is Bob McDonnell.
Fast-forward four years. Governor McDonnell failed to overcome the plague of Virginia Governors: the “transportation” problem, also known as the inability to prioritize transportation spending as a core government expenditure problem. Within the next month, he may sign a $6.15 billion tax hike as an alternative to this obligation, the largest tax hike in Virginia history.
Though he said numerous times that he would not raise taxes in 2009, he refused to put that promise in writing by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to Virginia taxpayers. Four years later he pulled what PolitiFact called “a full flip-flop” by supporting the largest tax hike in Virginia history. The lesson? When a politician refuses to put their promise to reject higher taxes in writing, taxpayers should be suspicious.
Virginia taxpayers’ greatest lesson in the midst of preparing for higher gas, diesel, sales, property, hotel, car, and alternative vehicle registration taxes should be to demand that those who say they will oppose higher taxes put it in writing for everyone to see. To the dismay of tax hikers, taxpayers and voters are less forgiving of those who break written promises as opposed to spoken ones. According to Stanford’s Michael Tomz and Berkeley’s Robert Van Houweling, voters – no matter their opinions on taxes or spending cuts – hate politicians who break pledges.
The desire among Republicans to elect Republicans who sound like limited government, low-taxers should coincide with their desire to elect people who will govern with the same principles they campaign with. That’s where the simplicity and effectiveness of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge comes in – it nearly always ensures the no-new-tax promise guides the governance.
No Virginia crisis is so great that a politician’s promise is disposable. Bob McDonnell himself campaigned against Tim Kaine’s transportation “fix,” a tax hike smaller than his own, because there were alternative solutions. Unfortunately, Governor McDonnell lacked the strength to govern as the conservative that Virginia needed.
Ken Cuccinelli will also have a mere 4 years to accomplish his goals. That’s the nature of serving as Virginia’s governor.
Fortunately, the era of Bob McDonnell’s power to impose his big government greater spending “solutions” to Virginia’s transportation “problem” has almost passed. Pending an unlikely veto, the taxpayers have lost and we must move on as we always have when Democrats have been in charge.
Will Ken Cuccinelli, who has articulated the same principles that Bob McDonnell did in 2009, follow in his footsteps with higher taxes? Or, will he instead commit to voters in writing to stand with them by rejecting the notion that more government spending and higher taxes are a “fix” to any of our problems? With “tax reform” being one of Ken Cuccinelli’s vague campaign planks, voters would be wise to contact the Attorney General and ask that he stand with them by again signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, the written guarantee to oppose and veto all tax hikes that land on his desk.
Paul Blair is Americans for Tax Reform’s state communications associate. For more information on ATR’s fight to hold Virginia politicians accountable, visit www.vataxpayersfund.org.