For the second time in as many weeks, the country’s most well known anti-tax crusader is urging Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to stick to his signed oath to Alabama voters not to raise their taxes.
Grover Norquist, the head of the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), has perhaps been the country’s most effective opponent of tax hikes since then-President Ronald Reagan urged him to start his anti-tax group in 1985. ATR is best known for organizing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which asks all candidates for federal and state office to commit themselves in writing to the American people to oppose all tax increases.
Bentley has signed the pledge. So when the governor, only a month removed from winning re-election, recently floated the idea of raising taxes to solve the state’s budget woes, American’s for Tax Reform responded quickly.
“Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, a Taxpayer Protection Pledge signer, publicly endorsed eliminating tax deductions for Alabama families as a means for solving the state’s overspending problem last Monday,” ATR said in a release. “Enacting legislation that burdens taxpayers with higher taxes and fees to fuel exorbitant state spending, goes against his written promise to the people of Alabama to ‘oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.’”
Bentley does not deny that he signed the pledge, but dismissed Norquist when reporters asked him about ATR’s opposition to proposed his tax hike.
“I don’t pay much attention to Grover Norquist,” he said. “He doesn’t run the state of Alabama.”
On Monday, Norquist told Yellowhammer that it’s important to remember that Bentley’s commitment to not raise taxes was made to Alabama voters, not to him.
“Obama and Harry Reid have tried to argue that the pledge is taken to me or Americans for Tax Reform,” he said. “Read it. It is clear. It is a pledge to the people of your state.”
The Pledge has gotten the most attention at the federal level, where it has placed Norquist at the center of countless budget battles over the years. But he says the state pledge, which Bentley signed, is actually even stronger than the federal pledge.
“The State Taxpayer Protection pledge is a written commitment by a governor of state legislator to oppose and vote against any tax increase,” Norquist told Yellowhammer. “It is broader than the federal Taxpayer Protection Pledge. It covers sales taxes, income taxes — all taxes. It does not have loopholes or excuses or wiggle room or a fudge factor. The Taxpayer Protection Pledge is powerful because citizens know that elected officials decided to make a public, unchanging commitment.”
Norquist also said that Bentley was wrong in his recent assertion that revoking tax deductions would not constitute a tax increase.
“A change in tax law that results in a higher tax burden is a tax increase,” he said. “The Taxpayer Protection Pledge is purposefully clear and free of weasel words. No tax increase means no tax increase by any means.”
But that doesn’t mean that politicians have not tried to go back on their pledge in the past.
“In other states politicians have tried to define various tax increases as something other than tax increases. Ask the taxpayers…do they view changes in the tax code to take more of their money as a tax hike or not? The Alabama Governor was elected after promising the people of Alabama he would not raise their taxes.”
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— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) December 3, 2014