Washington negotiations to avert the “fiscal cliff” now include the role that tax increases could play in addressing the federal budget deficit. Serious cracks are appearing in the Republican lawmakers’ anti-tax firewall, as fewer new GOP legislators are signing Grover Norquist’s pledge and some high-profile signatories are questioning it.
Norquist is urging policymakers to look to the states for inspiration in crafting federal budget reform. But his claim that states want to eliminate key sources of revenue is out of step with reality — and with the broader history of tax reform at the state level.
Throughout American history, in fact, popular support for higher revenues to fund key public services has been more common than today’s anti-tax advocates realize. State legislators and governors have long relied on new revenue to fund crucial public services.
Democrats and anyone now seeking a bipartisan solution can take a lesson from these state tax reform efforts. They demonstrate that Americans will support higher taxes as part of a broader public vision for investments in education and services.
This was clear when California voters on Nov. 6 supported Proposition 30 to fund public education, raising state income taxes on upper earners as well as the sales tax.