My father, Gov. Mel Thomson, issued the first modern anti-tax pledge to ensure that elected officials kept their word to the people, and to provide the people with a means to enforce that accountability if needed.
He understood as both a private citizen and a public official that too much power in the hands of public officeholders could be a bad thing and that once entrusted with any authority, officeholders would be unlikely to surrender it back to the people.
We need only look at what is currently happening in other states to see that he was and still is correct.
In California, the governor and lawmakers have been wrestling with a $15.7 billion budget deficit, leading to deep cuts in services. In Illinois, the auditor general recently reported that the state’s deficit is a jaw-dropping $43.8 billion. In these states and many others, high taxes and higher spending are the norm, with predictably disastrous results. My father said many times as governor, “the power to tax is the power to destroy,” and how right he was.
While New Hampshire has not been immune to the shocks of recession in the last several years, our state is well situated to enjoy a strong recovery more quickly than many other states. That is due in large part to the New Hampshire Advantage of low taxes and government spending restraint.
Now we have the opportunity to help maintain and secure that advantage in the short and long term.
First, in the short term I have released my 2012 anti-tax pledge for candidates to sign. I am proud to carry on this important tradition that my father introduced. Signing this pledge allows candidates to demonstrate their commitment to the conservative principles it sets forth and lets you know where the candidates stand on the issues. The Pledge is non-partisan, and I will be asking all candidates who are running for office this year to sign the Pledge.
As a voter, I hope you will encourage candidates who ask for your vote to sign the Pledge, titled “The Taxpayer Protection and Prosperity Pledge.”
In the long term, New Hampshire voters will have an opportunity this fall to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting any additional taxes on personal income.
The House and Senate passed the proposed constitutional amendment. Now the responsibility turns to the voters, two thirds of whom must approve the amendment for it to become part of our state constitution.
We all know that tax policy is important. And while other states are struggling with state and local governments that spend far beyond their means, impoverishing future generations, New Hampshire has pursued a different path rooted in our belief that the best way to restrain government spending is to keep the money out of the government’s greedy hands in the first place.
Those who criticize the income tax ban amendment argue that restricting the state’s ability to tax incomes will “tie the hands” of future lawmakers. But looking at the experience in other states that are struggling with massive spending obligations and deep budget shortfalls, you can’t help but wonder if they’d have been better off if their lawmakers’ hands had been tied.
An active citizenry is required if the New Hampshire Advantage is to be preserved for future generations. Asking your candidates to sign the anti-tax Pledge and supporting the proposed constitutional amendment banning an income tax this fall are two ways to help lock in our advantage to ensure that New Hampshire doesn’t go down the road of endless spending and government growth that other states have followed.
Tom Thomson of Orford is the honorary chairman of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire.