Voting with Their Wallets
Voters across the nation dealt a major defeat to the radical anti-government movement. In state after state, the people rejected the starvation tax policies of the Norquistas and reaffirmed their shared commitment to investment in essential public services. Looking ahead to 2006, this augurs well for good government Democrats and represents a stern warning to President Bush and the Congressional GOP.
The triumph of common sense started in Colorado last week. There, voters overwhelmingly supported a suspension of the state's Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) in the face of deficits topping $3 billion. Republican Governor Bill Owen, who came to office championing TABOR, backed the campaign to undue the damage to the state. As Governor Owen concluded, "I can't imagine what Colorado would have looked like if we'd lost. Coloradans looked at a complicated issue and did the right thing."
California, too, rejected spending straight-jackets. Soon-to-be ex-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger put his remaining political capital behind Measure 76, which would have mandated severe limitations on the growth of state spending. As with his other proposals, the people of California decisively rejected by 62%-38% Arnold's formula for defunding essential government services.
Even virulent anti-tax Washington toed the line on common sense government investment in needed public infrastructure. Voters there turned back a repeal of the state's gasoline tax increase, revenue from which is funding a broad range of badly needed transportation and other infrastructure projects. Passage of Initiative 912 would have stripped $5.5 billion of out of the state's massive $8.5 billion transportation package. Voters in gridlocked King County (Seattle) and Snohomish County overwhelmingly rejected 912.
While President Bush and the Republican leadership in Washington press ahead with crippling spending cuts and $70 billion in tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans, in the states the voters have clearly articulated different set of priorities and support for the public good. Over the past week, anti-government zealots like Norquist and Schwarzenegger were, in the words of neo-con godfather Irving Kristol, "mugged by reality." In 2006, politicians ignore those lessons at their peril.