Monday, June 11, 2018

Fiscal Conservatism and Election 2018

My article yesterday about the gubernatorial candidate panel in Fremont County earned both praise and ire. For example, some Taylor Haynes supporters thought I was unfair to him. 

I respect their opinion, and their criticism. I like Taylor Haynes and I have enormous respect for his career achievements as well as his principles. I also highly appreciate his standpoint on taxes: he was the first candidate to pledge not to raise taxes. 

With all this in mind, though, it is important to explain that I do not let personal concerns for individual candidates get in the way of my work. I am an independent political economist and my focus is entirely on what my analytical work tells me is best for Wyoming. If some candidate does not go far enough, as I see it, in proposing and pursing the right kind of economic policy reforms, I am going to point it out. 

This is not an easy position to be in. Having been involved in politics in one form or another for most of my adult life, I know the terms of the game better than most people. I certainly know how a candidate's supporters feel when I praise or criticize their favorite. I have been on that side of the fence, too, including running for and holding elected office myself. 

What I do earns me very few friends, and it certainly does not build loyalty ties to individual candidates. When you do what I do, you are simply too unreliable in the eyes of individual candidates. That is not a criticism of them - a politician needs to have people around him- or herself who are loyal to the person, not the idea. It is simply the nature of the job. But I also do not aspire to land any favors with individual candidates; if I did, I would be compromising my integrity. I see a great need for the kind of work I do, economic policy analysis beholden to nothing else but good principles of fiscal conservatism.

In plain English: no one tells me what to say or write, and I intend to keep it that way.

With all that said, I acknowledge that I was a bit short in my recognition of Taylor Haynes, Mark Gordon, Bill Dahlin and Foster Friess and their performance in the forum on Saturday. I maintain that they did not perform well, and I maintain that they were entirely overshadowed by Hageman and  Galeotos, but I will keep the criticism from supporters in mind for the future. I am also repeating my invitation to all gubernatorial campaigns: if you feel that your candidate has been misrepresented on this blog, you are welcome to write a piece explaining why. I will publish it unedited, only with a brief introduction explaining the context. 

Speaking of which, with reference to my comment that Sam Galeotos has been AWOL on taxes, his campaign has drawn my attention to the following news release:
Sam E. Galeotos Statement on Taxation

​CHEYENNE, WY – Republican gubernatorial candidate and Wyoming businessman Sam E. Galeotos releases the following statement on taxation and tax pledges.

“I believe Wyoming’s problems can and must be solved without tax increases,” said Galeotos. “Wyoming enjoys a low tax environment which is essential for economic growth. And while we may be facing serious budget challenges, this is simply the wrong time to be considering raising taxes. To the extent we “grow revenue” that must be done by growing the economy. I have spent my life leading people and organizations in the pursuit of solving large complex problems and I know the best solutions are almost never simple...”
Taylor Haynes is still the strongest candidate on this issue, having gone up and beyond my tax pledge, which says:
As candidate for Governor of Wyoming in 2018, I hereby pledge to not sign any bill that will raise any tax, or create any new tax, or create any other revenue source with similar effects as higher taxes, for as long as I am Governor of Wyoming.

Harriet Hageman has formulated her own pledge with a similarly strong message, placing her on equal footing with Haynes. Galeotos does not go quite as far as Haynes and Hageman do, but he goes far enough that we the taxpayers can hold his feet to the fire if there is ever a discussion about new or higher taxes, or other new revenue sources. 

The bottom line here, though, is that pledging not to raise taxes is only the beginning, and this is currently the most sensitive point in the gubernatorial race. Once the door is shut on the tax side of the budget, we must start working on the spending side, or else the pledges to not raise taxes will fall flat to the ground as the budget deficit keeps growing.

I see some progress here, with some glimpses of hope during the Fremont County forum, so perhaps the needle is moving in the right direction. Like everything else in politics, it moves too slowly, but at least it is moving. 

What really matters here is that the legislature will get little to nothing done on spending reform unless we have a governor who is willing to carry the torch. They did put Taxmageddon on the back burner, which was a good start, but the tax issue is far from buried in the legislature. We need structural, permanent spending reforms and we need them badly, and our next governor is going to be instrumental in making it happen.

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