Most of the public probably isn't familiar with the name Grover Norquist or his group, Americans for Tax Reform. But among Republican policymakers, he's an alarmingly important figure.
As regular readers may recall, Norquist is an anti-tax crusader who's convinced all kinds of GOP policymakers to sign something known as "the pledge" -- in order to get ahead in their party, Republicans agree in writing never to support raising any tax on anyone by any amount for any reason.
But occasionally, far-right policymakers discover that the mindless, knee-jerk commitment stands in the way of actual governance in the real world. Louisiana's Republican-dominated state government, for example, is facing an enormous budget crisis, caused in part by Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) tax breaks. Now the state can't get its fiscal house in order, and as TPM reported
, it's asking Norquist to give Louisiana a break.
For months now legislators have accused Jindal of kowtowing to Norquist's "no tax pledge," which stipulates that taxes cannot be raised unless they're offset by spending cuts elsewhere. And this weekend they'd had enough. A group of self-described "conservative" Republican state representatives took their complaints to Norquist himself, asking him to give them some wiggle room on raising taxes and to shoot down some Jindal-backed legislation that they say would set a "dangerous precedent" in how government could mask revenue hikes. [...] Sunday's letter -- signed by Louisiana House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Joel Robideaux (R) and 10 other state Republican representatives -- asked Norquist to take into account the previous tax cuts Louisiana has passed in recent years and the effect they will have in the future when assessing whether the state is in compliance with the no tax pledge.
David Kurtz joked
, "With all due respect to Grover Norquist, this is like begging your dealer for permission to go clean."
And in this case, the dealer said, "No."
Republican lawmakers in Louisiana are basically looking for permission to raise cigarette taxes and scale back some existing tax credits. Under "the pledge," however, this counts as raising taxes, which means the policies are simply unacceptable.
GOP officials want Norquist to cut them some slack. Norquist responded
by saying the GOP officials should simply cut even more spending elsewhere, no matter the consequences. All the while, Jindal, planning a long-shot presidential campaign, is terrified of the whole mess, telling lawmakers that if their budget doesn't honor "the pledge," he won't sign it
[I]n Jindal's administration, the buck stops with Norquist. I'd be embarrassed, me, if I called myself the governor, and I had to check with somebody else regarding my state's fiscal policy. It's an abdication of power and of respect. Consider the absurdity of Republican lawmakers consulting Norquist on tax policy in Louisiana. Is Jindal aware of how this makes him look? As he prepares to run for president, as he throws his hat into the ring to try to run the country. Does he really want it to look like he hasn't really been the man running Louisiana?
The Times-Picayune added
, "Lawmakers are struggling with Norquist's restrictions as they enter the final four days of 2015 budget negotiations. They have to send the spending plan to Jindal's desk by Thursday evening."