Monday, February 07, 2005

Grover Screws Kentucky

Kentucky lawmakers realize now that they have to raise taxes to save their state. But the smirking, lotion-smearing, barf-bag collecting Grover Norquist has fixed them good:

Some Kentucky lawmakers who long ago pledged to never raise taxes are starting to wonder if they've registered in the Hotel California.

You know -- it's that mystic place memorialized in the 1976 Eagles hit. "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

Several Democrats and Republicans have declared recently that they're feeling boxed in by the so-called "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" aggressively urged upon politicians nationwide by a conservative group, Americans for Tax Reform, and its feisty founder, Grover Norquist.

Signing up seemed like a good idea at the time, they say, but times have changed.

Kentucky needs money for education, health programs and salaries, and it might need new taxes to get it. They want out.

But to their amazement, they're finding that nearly impossible to do.

Last Friday, Sen. Walter Blevins, D-West Liberty, and Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, proudly announced at a press conference that they were rescinding their promises.

They're among the 50 of Kentucky's 138 lawmakers who, along with Gov. Ernie Fletcher, have signed the pledge -- the second-highest state participation rate after South Carolina.

"I don't want to hide behind this no-tax pledge," said Blevins, a 1996 recruit. "I think the people of Kentucky realize to some extent that it's a scam." It's irresponsible to dismiss tax increases as an option just because of a campaign pledge, he said.

He and Gooch said they'll tell Norquist and his group to remove their names from the pledge list forthwith.

Good luck.

Ask Republican Steve Nunn of Glasgow, who did the taxation equivalent of publicly burning his draft card last month.

No dice, Norquist told him.

The pledge is a promise to constituents, not to the tax reform group, Norquist explained. So only voters can "release" him from his promise.

In an interview, he went further: Not even voting for a tax increase is grounds for removal.

"That doesn't get you out of the pledge, just like committing adultery doesn't get you out of a marriage," Norquist said. "It just makes you a bad person."

Lawmakers have just two ways to get off the list, Norquist said, voice rising: Either lose an election, or announce an intention to "break the promise" at a press conference with Norquist and manage to get re-elected anyway.

Norquist explained that he must be present "to make sure it gets enough attention."

Norquist is a dangerous man. We need more investigations of him. Reporters, get to it; there's plenty of dirt there to dig. Rid your country of him, do your country a service.

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