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The Nation

March 8, 2011

Anti-tax pledge directs budget debates nationwide

(Continued)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —

The Assembly and Senate are scheduled to begin debate on Brown's budget plan as early as Wednesday.

In Georgia, Norquist has intervened in two recent tax debates, forcing a tax policy group to convene a special meeting declaring that its plan to revamp the tax code would be revenue-neutral. Norquist then withdrew his opposition. Now, he is excoriating Republican lawmakers for voting in private to block a bill that would allow sales of alcohol on Sundays, a move that would bring more revenue to the state.

Not all Republicans agree with Norquist's approach. Even Christie, whose tax-cutting, union-fighting ways win kudos from Norquist, has not signed the pledge.

"He's taken strong positions to rein in spending and huge cost-drivers in government, specifically unsustainable public employee pension and health benefits," said Christie spokesman, Kevin Roberts. "Actually leading on these issues, as Gov. Christie has been doing, is the most important thing for public officials today."

Another Republican, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said he is against tax increases but declined to sign the pledge in 2009, saying he did not want to limit his options.

"I would rather show what I'm going to do through my actions," he said then.

Former California state Assemblyman Roger Niello said the pledge has become "a policy straitjacket" that prevents rational debate about tax policy, even among conservatives who generally share the same philosophy.

"There are those from outside elected positions that will very aggressively use it in a campaign and say that the lack of somebody's signature on that pledge means that they want to raise taxes, which is a bit of a perversion," said Niello, who did not sign the pledge and lost a Republican primary race last year for a state Senate seat. "They (lawmakers) are motivated by fear."

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