Yesterday’s post about the uncompromising nature of the Minnesota Republicans’ commitment to their no-new-taxes position sparked a lot of questions about the role of Grover Norquist and the tax pledge that his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, plays, and some specific questions about which Minnesota Republicans have signed Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge.”
The short answer is that 12 of Minnesota’s 37 Republican state senators have signed the pledge and 25 of the 72 Repub state representatives have signed. The signatories include three of the four top leaders of the Repub caucuses. Speaker Kurt Zellers and House Majority Leader Matt Dean have signed. Senate Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel has signed but Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch has not.
This link to Norquist’s outfit, Americans for Tax Reform, will get you the complete list of the state legislator signatories, sorted by state, if you want to check exactly which Minnesotans have signed.
Norquist, who may not be as famous as he should be, is a pivotal figure in focusing the modern Republican Party on opposition to any tax increase, now and forever. The pledge requires legislators to oppose not only any increase in tax rates, but also to oppose the closing of tax loopholes unless the revenue raised by closing the loophole would be completely offset by a decrease in rates somewhere else in the tax structure.
This element of the pledge, by the way, seems to be on the table in Washington, and not getting the attention it deserves. President Barack Obama has tried to put Repubs on the defensive by proposing to eliminate things like tax breaks for the owners of corporate jets. At first Repubs just said no, but if you listen carefully, the position has changed so that Repubs don’t have to defend obscene loopholes but can still keep the pledge. As House Republican leader Eric Cantor said this week: “If the president wants to talk loopholes, we’ll be glad to talk loopholes [but] we’re not for any proposal that increases taxes, and any type of discussion should be coupled with offsetting tax cuts somewhere else.”
Norquist has said: “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
He is a powerful kingmaker in Republican politics and is not shy about attacking anyone who wobbles after signing the pledge. When Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., suggested that the oath he took to the Constitution might outweigh his pledge to the anti-taxers, Norquist replied: “Coburn said on national TV today that he lied his way into office and will vote to raise taxes if he damn well feels like it, never mind what he promised the citizens of Oklahoma.”
The Strib’s Washington guy, Kevin Diaz, had little trouble getting Norquist to express his feelings about the tax component of the Minnesota situation. Norquist called Gov. Mark Dayton a “fanatic,” and described Dayton’s call for a tax on millionaires “his hate and envy tax increase.”
I was surprised only one-third of the Repub legislators have signed the pledge, but I gather Norquist puts top priority on federal office-seekers. For example, 235 out of 242 Repub members of the U.S. House, including all four Minnesota Repub congressmen, have signed the pledge, according to the list maintained by Americans for Tax Reform.