Reporter Don Gilliland has an article in today’s Patriot-News that attempts to make the case that some Pennsylvania legislators who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge didn’t understand it and/or have disavowed it. However, Gilliland’s piece is based on a false premise and is riddled with statements from lawmakers that are either misinformed or misleading.
According to Gilliland, some legislators told him that “they were never provided an explanation that by signing they were committing themselves for as long as they held the office.”
Cited in the story is serial Pledge breaker Rep. Camille “Bud” George, who was quoted as saying: “I — as I’m sure many others — believed that we were signing the pledge for the year and budget then in question,” George said. “It is patently ridiculous to think that a responsible lawmaker would sign a pledge that, I’m now led to believe, was meant to last for eternity.”
So George thinks lawmakers should only be bound to the Pledge for one budget or one term. This is the equivalent of a candidate thinking it makes perfect sense to run for office telling voters that he or she is pro-life and that no one will mind if they support a pro-abortion agenda after their first two years in office. Also, the Pledge is not for “eternity,” as Rep. George mistakenly claims. In fact, I spoke to Gilliland while he was working on this story and informed him that ATR sends a list of frequently asked questions about the Pledge to all candidates during every election cycle that makes clear that their commitment to constituents “to oppose and vote against any and all efforts to raise taxes” is effective for the duration of the office for which they signed. For whatever reason, Gilliland chose not to include this information in his story. A copy of that FAQ sheet can be found here. Again, ATR sends this to every challenger and incumbent in all 7,000 plus state legislative districts across the nation every election cycle.
The false premise that Gilliland’s piece is based on is that the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is a promise to ATR or Grover Norquist. If that were the case then the Pledge would be a silly and meaningless document, but the fact is that the Pledge is a commitment that lawmakers make to their voters and constituents, not any one person or organization. A quick glance at the simple language of the Pledge makes this clear. In light of the hundreds of billions of dollars in higher federal taxes that have come out of Washington, D.C. during the Obama administration, it’s understandable that Gov. Corbett, along with 12 other sitting governors and over 1,260 state legislators, find it economically prudent to rule out further raising taxes at the state level. Such a commitment is even more understandable in Pennsylvania, home of the 10th highest state and local tax burden in the nation.
One of the most entertaining passages in the article is from Rep. Tom Creighton, who claims he has no recollection of signing the Pledge and is quoted as saying “I’m a no-tax guy, but occasionally, you have to raise taxes. There are times when taxes are needed.”
Shorter Creighton: I’m opposed to raising taxes…until I’m not. How’s that for straight talk from a politician.
Regarding Creighton’s denial that he signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, the fact is that Creighton signed the Pledge, a commitment to his constituents that they probably appreciate, on April 3rd of just last year and his signing was witnessed by a family member. A copy of Creighton’s signed Pledge, which has a copy of the FAQ sheet on the back side, can be found here. I would’ve been happy to provide this information and proof of signing to Gilliland to make his piece more informed, but he never asked about it or mentioned Creighton's denial.
Lastly the article inaccurately notes that “Corbett’s impact-fee proposal has received Norquist’s nod of approval.” Actually, this is not ATR’s position, because the fact is, there is no legislation for ATR to take a position on. Gov. Corbett’s impact fee proposal is merely an outline to guide General Assembly members who will be crafting the legislation. What ATR has said about Corbett’s impact fee outline is that it is a tremendous step in the right direction away from the state severance tax that Ed Rendell sought during his final year in office, as well as the impact “fee” proposed by Sen. Scarnati earlier this year, which was really an extraction tax, not a fee.
ATR supports the guiding principles and improvements to Gov. Corbett’s impact fee outline that have been suggested by the Commonwealth Foundation. Additionally, any impact fee legislation should include a strong burden of proof provision to ensure that counties and municipalities are only assessing fees on drillers in order to pay for the uncompensated costs to remediate documented infrastructural or environmental impacts.