It’s tempting sometimes to think, in George Wallace’s famous put-down, that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.” No matter whether Republicans or Democrats control the government, the government keeps right on growing. A politician is a politician is a politician.
But Americans for Tax Reform has analyzed the record and found that it does, indeed, make a difference. Even when the difference is measured in dimes, the dimes accumulate. In states with a Democratic governor and a Democratic legislature, the people invariably pay higher taxes for runaway spending. In states with Republican governors and legislatures, the people generally pay lower taxes and enjoy more responsible spending.
The Republican electoral surge in 2010 expanded from nine to 21 the number of states where the party held total control of the state government, and the difference is measurable. Over the past three years, Republican governors and state legislators slashed taxes by $38 billion, led by Gov. Rick Perry in Texas, who cut $12.5 billion of that total.
Iowans got the largest tax cut in state history, more than $2.2 billion in property- and income-tax relief. North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana eliminated their death taxes. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas championed legislation that flattened the state income tax, easing the burden.
Perhaps nowhere in America have taxes fallen further and faster than in North Dakota, where Gov. Jack Dalrymple shrank state individual income-tax rates by nearly a third and trimmed corporate income taxes by 20 percent.
When and where they had total control, Democrats squeezed every penny they could out of their taxpayers. Blue-state governors approved more than $58 billion in higher taxes, led by Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois, who imposed more than $12 billion in new levies. Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland follows close behind, no doubt dreaming of moving into the White House as President Obama’s natural successor as big spender of other people’s money. Mr. O’Malley has presided over the enactment of $11 billion in tax increases since 2008.
Residents of California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon are paying billions of dollars more to the state tax man to cover reckless spending sprees. General-fund expenditures in Democrat-controlled states rose nearly 10 percent between 2011 and 2013, while Republican-controlled states boosted outlays by 6.2 percent.
Add the rising costs of state entitlements, and the difference becomes stark. Democrat-controlled states saw total state expenditures increase four times as fast as states with Republican governors and legislatures. By comparison, 10 red states found a way to cut expenditures. Republicans are holding the line against taxes and spending gone wild. The alternative advanced by Democrats is spending at unsustainable levels. They’re demonstrating why it does, indeed, matter who governs.