Hidden beneath the national and state Republican blowout last week were some candidates who ran on conservative tax policies and won. Here are five of them.
1. Sam Brownback, Kansas. Despite a massive budget deficit, reduced state credit rating and a less robust economic recovery than promised, which critics blame on sweeping tax cuts, Kansas voted to reelect Gov. Sam Brownback. In his first term he eliminated a tax on small businesses, and cut income taxes by about 25 percent in 2012, from 6.45 percent to 4.9 percent. By 2018 that rate is scheduled to drop to 3.9 percent. (RELATED: Brownback Gets An ‘A’ For Politically Dangerous Tax Cuts)
Revenues have been less than projected, and Kansas will have to find a way to cut $279 million for the current fiscal year and another $436 million in the following in order to balance the budget, according to a new report. But Brownback has insisted the cuts need more time to take effect and stimulate growth. “It’s like going through surgery,” he told The Wall Street Journal before the elections. “It takes a while to heal and get growing afterwards.” Kansas voters apparently bought it.
2. Larry Hogan, Maryland. One of the biggest surprises on election night was Republican businessman Larry Hogan’s victory over Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, and tax policy played a huge role. Hogan successfully linked Brown to Democrat Martin O’Malley, who passed 40 tax increases in his two terms as governor, and compiled research showing that Maryland is losing billions in taxable income to other states, because of the relatively high number of people leaving the state.
His strategy worked, and he will serve as only the second Republican governor in the traditionally blue state in the past 40 years. He’s promised to get rid of $1.7 billion of mismanaged and wasted taxpayer dollars in the state, and use that to cut taxes. One reporter truly struggling to accept the outcome as a triumph of conservative policy acknowledge Hogan ran a good campaign, but resorted to charges of racism to explain Brown’s loss. “Brown’s skin color wasn’t a factor, which means it was,” he explained.
3. Charlie Baker, Massachusetts. After an unsuccessful 2010 bid for Massachusetts governor, businessman Charlie Baker ran this year on a pledge not to raise taxes, and to reform the current tax code in the state, aka “Taxachusetts.” Early polls showed him 11 points behind Democrat Martha Coakley, but he pulled ahead in the closing weeks and pulled off a win.
Baker seized on an admission from Coakley in an October debate that she would consider changing the state’s tax structure from the current flat tax system to a graduated income tax, and within a day Coakley backtracked from her statement. “I said I’m not going to raise taxes and I meant it,” Coakley told reporters the next day, and said Massachusetts voters have “rejected soundly” the idea of a graduated income tax in the past several decades. She lost — again.
4. Bruce Rauner, Illinois. Republican businessman Bruce Rauner defeated incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn in a particularly embarrassing win for President Obama, who campaigned hard for Quinn, along with Michelle. “This is a victory for our taxpayers who need a lower tax burden,” Rauner said following the election. “The voters have spoken.”
He promised a tax code overhaul, “not just a tinker around the edges,” by undoing Gov. Quinn’s 67 percent income tax hike, 45 percent corporate tax hike, and stopping property taxes, which are the 2nd highest in the nation, from going up if the value of a home decreases. He also launched a statewide petition via FreezeMyTaxes.com, which called on Gov. Quinn to freeze property taxes. “Everywhere Illinois families turn, they are crushed by taxes,” the site reads, and promises Rauner would not raise taxes without taxpayer approval.
5. Rick Snyder, Michigan. Republican Rick Snyder was elected governor of Michigan in 2010 by a huge margin of 18 percentage points, but won a much closer race against Democrat Rep. Mark Schauer this year, surviving attacks on his tax policies and decision to lead Detroit through bankruptcy. In 2011, he signed into law the largest overhaul of the Michigan tax system in nearly two decades. He eliminated a Michigan business tax, which freed up 100,000 businesses at a cost of $1.65 billion to the state, and made up for that by increasing income taxes by $1.42 billion, including on pensions.
In an October debate, Schauer accused Snyder of cutting taxes for businesses but raising them for working families and retirees. But Snyder maintained the cuts were fair and necessary. “Something fundamentally had to happen to make us a great state again,” he had said when he signed the overhaul into law. Like Gov. Brownback, Snyder asked the voters for more time to allow his policies to take effect and get the state to a better place, and the voters gave it to him.
While serious tax reform probably won’t be signed into law in the next two years, these victories taken together will certainly encourage politicians considering conservative tax policies at the state and national levels. (RELATED: GOP Unlikely To Compromise With Obama On Tax Reform)
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