We think the authors of "The Great Tax Revolt of 1994" (October) misattributed credit for New Jersey's tax revolt to Gov. Christine Whitman. Whitman, an obscure Rockefeller-style Republican, found her usual politics insufficient when running against Gov. Jim Florio in 1994. Trailing heavily in summer polls against the hated incumbent, she desperately moved late to embrace the anti-tax attitude of businessman Jim Wallwork, whom she'd beaten in the Republican primary. The voters responded with a November turnaround. But will Whitman's marriage of convenience with the tax-cut agenda last?
I was greatly disappointed by the opening paragraphs of Mr. Moore and Mr. Stansel's article in the October issue. For the sake of a dramatic beginning, they demonstrated that they have little grasp of the facts in Colorado.
Mr. Bruce's "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" has had practically no effect, except to increase the cost of government. Voters have overwhelmingly voted to accept their elected representatives' judgment and to support their decisions. The tourism tax and a sales tax increase in Paonia (population 1,485), and perhaps a few others, are the only casualties of Mr. Bruce's attack on representative government. He has given employment to attorneys by filing multiple court challenges, which have almost universally been struck down.
Amendment 1 is only the first volley in an attempt to do away with the republican form of government. While the people of this state are not buying into direct democracy, Mr. Bruce quixotically now proposes an amendment to interfere with the right of contract and property rights.
His latest venture would have every decision of a local board subject to a direct vote on petition of a minimal number of electors within 90 days of a board decision. For example, an award of a paving contract or an annexation decision could not be implemented within 90 days to see if anyone took out a petition. If a vote were forced, a contract could be delayed for two years waiting for an election.
Stanley M. Morris
In "The Great Tax Revolt of 1994," our governor, Fife Symington, is lauded for pledging to abolish the state income tax. At the same time that Symington told us voters we had an $85-million surplus, he was not telling us about our $143 million in unpaid debt. He did some creative accounting to disguise the problem by sequestering millions of dollars already allocated to the county hospital and borrowing another $50 million from next year's budget. Not until a Libertarian filed suit in the Arizona Supreme Court did he pay off the debt with the "surplus" and other tax money.
After that, some Republicans down at the statehouse began calling themselves Republican/Libertarians. Afraid that his supporters would decamp to the side of John Buttrick, the Libertarian candidate for governor, who was calling for an end to the state tax, Symington announced that if re- elected, he would abolish the state tax.
Messrs. Moore and Stansel reply: Unlike Robert Goodman and Kathy Greene, we are less concerned about Christine Whitman's original motivation for pledging to cut taxes than whether she's actually doing it. Whether Whitman is a political opportunist or a genuine supply-side convert is an open question, but there's no denying that her 15-percent rate cut last year was an admirable achievement regardless. We do share Mr. Goodman and Ms. Greene's suspicion that Whitman's tax-cut agenda may not last, though. She has shown scant interest in hacking away at the bloated New Jersey state budget to make room for more tax cut and has announced a postponement of the final phase of the promised 30-percent reduction.
We disagree with Stanley Morris's statement that the voter-approval requirement for new taxes in Colorado has "had practically no effect." Mr. Morris himself concedes that in just its first 18 months it already has led to the repeal of taxes that would have otherwise passed. We think the ultimate impact of Amendment 1 will be to discourage politicians from even proposing new taxes. Perhaps we didn't state one point forcefully enough in our article: We support voter-approval requirements precisely because they do remove unilateral taxing authority from elected representatives and give taxpayers a veto power over any new levies. Why shouldn't Colorado citizens have this veto authority? After all, it is their money. If this is what Mr. Morris refers to as "undermining representative government," then we're all for it.
Frances Arnesen is correct that the Libertarians were the original proponents of ending the Arizona income tax. The fact that Gov. Fife Symington has expropriated that idea and that many in the Arizona GOP feel that it is politically advantageous to call themselves "Republican/Libertarians" should not be cause for lamenting. It's an indication of the healthy impact the Libertarian Party is having on the policy process in Arizona.