In keeping with the theme of my column this week, I wanted to point out what could possibly lie ahead for Georgia Republicans if they continue to pursue their tax-and-spend course. The article is called How to Turn a Red State Blue from February of 2006 and it appeared in the Wall Street Journal. It describes why Republicans lost control in Virginia:
Republicans in that ostensibly “red” Southern state got their clocks cleaned in November’s elections after they refused to take a coherent stand on taxes, and Democrat Tim Kaine squeezed to their right on pocketbook issues. As GOP state senator Ken Cuccinelli explained, “We ran on a message of almost being for tax cuts, almost for smaller government, almost for protecting Second Amendment rights, and almost being pro-life. As a result, the voters almost came out and voted for us.”
And they apparently have learned nothing from that rout. When the legislature reconvened last month, the first proposal from the majority Republicans in the state senate was to endorse a $1 billion tax hike for roads and transit projects — the second huge tax increase in two years. The GOP plan would increase auto fees, the gas and diesel tax, and even taxes on batteries and tires. This is the same party that last won the governorship under Jim Gilmore in 1997 promising to abolish the very car taxes they now want to increase.
These tax-hike proposals keep coming despite a state revenue office report that Virginia now has a $2 billion biennial budget surplus. As a high-tech state, Virginia has been a huge beneficiary of the expansion spurred by the Bush investment tax cuts. But the entrenched senate Republicans — many of whom have been fixtures in the capital of Richmond for decades — want to spend the tax windfall and then some.
A Virginia Institute for Public Policy study notes that, over the past decade, the state budget has swollen at twice the rate of inflation plus population growth in the state. That’s an $11 billion bonanza for state agencies, or about $500 more spending annually per Virginian. It’s true that roads have been neglected during these high-spending years, causing some of the worst pockets of traffic gridlock in the country. But that’s because state pols spent like crazy on social services and schools — though student achievement tests show virtually no gains.
Every detail may not be the same (although you can make the argument that we don’t have a Republican governor) but Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly, specifically in the State House, are headed down a dangerous path and those who do not learns from lessons of the past are destined to repeat it.