It’s a good question: I’ve often wondered why candidates for office sign pledges to do anything but preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and to faithfully discharge the duties of the office they’re seeking. But take a look at the photo below and you’ll see Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist (left) and my friend conservative activist Chuck Muth (right), bookending state Sen. Greg Brower as he signs the ATR pledge to oppose taxes.
But let me clarify: Brower is pictured here signing the federal anti-tax pledge, promising that if he’s elected to Congress he won’t vote for tax increases in Washington D.C. Brower, appointed to fill a Reno state Senate seat after former Sen. Bill Raggio resigned, immediately expressed interest in running for an open House seat. Alas, as we all know, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled political parties get to choose nominees for House special elections, and the Republican Party choose its former chairman, Mark Amodei, who is now a congressman. (And an ATR pledge signer!)
But get this: Brower has never signed the state anti-tax pledge, which has different wording but the same effect, committing its signers to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes at the state level. Signing it wouldn’t be inconsistent with his previously stated beliefs, and his voting record. (He voted no in 2011 on extending a package of ostensibly temporary taxes that were set to expire, in order to fill a budget gap created when the state Supreme Court ruled the Legislature could no longer pilfer the accounts of local government.)
So why not sign it? Well, this is 2012, and Brower is locked in a tight race for re-election not against an anti-tax Republican such as Amodei, but a liberal Democrat, former state Sen. Sheila Leslie. And this time around, Brower favors keeping those supposedly temporary taxes on the books.
That’s right: Brower has flip-flopped on taxes, following his party’s leader, Gov. Brian Sandoval, who ran for office in 2010 against legendary tax opponent Gov. Jim Gibbons. Sandoval promised “no new taxes” during that campaign, and said repeatedly that extending taxes set to expire was the equivalent of a tax increase. But after that court ruling, Sandoval changed his tune, But until his race with Leslie, Brower had not.
Now, one could argue — and I have – that since no one will actually pay more money, extending a tax that was set to expire is not, technically, a tax increase. (That’s Sandoval’s line now, too.) But the governor once believed as Norquist does: A vote to extend the sunset taxes is a vote to increase taxes, and would violate the ATR pledge.
Good thing Brower never signed it, huh? The state pledge, I mean.