In what appears to be a first for the tax-and-spendy world of District politics, a local candidate has signed the vaunted Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
Bruce Majors, the Libertarian candidate for congressional delegate, took Americans for Tax Reform’s pledge earlier this month. And Grover Norquist, ATR’s president, said that, to his knowledge, Majors is the first District candidate to take it.
No-new-tax pledges are not unheard of in D.C. politics; Adrian M. Fenty promised not to raise taxes when running for mayor. (After getting elected, Fenty raised scads of fees in his mayoral budget proposals but left it to the D.C. Council to raise income, sales and property taxes to balance a recession-battered budget.) But Majors, a Dupont Circle realtor, is unusual in making his promise to taxpayers via ATR and Norquist.
The pledge, of course, is rather popular on the national level, with 238 representatives and 41 senators currently signed on — all but three of them Republicans. Norquist and his pledge are a liberal and moderate bête noire, regularly blamed these days for partisan gridlock and the inability of Congress to come to a “grand bargain” to balance the budget and pay down the national debt. ATR mostly focuses on Congress but has occasionally editorialized against the city’s tax policies, which include a decision to hike income taxes on wealthy residents last year.
Majors is promising to end “taxation without representation” by ending federal taxation in the District — a notion his main competition, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, once supported. The pledge also requires Majors to oppose “any and all efforts” to increase marginal income rates and “oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”
Now Majors is all but guaranteed to lose; his stated goal is winning 7,500 votes, which is enough to earn the Libertarians major-party status in future elections. But should he win and succeed in exempting D.C. residents from federal taxation, the beneficiaries would include Norquist, who, believe it or not, is a longtime District resident. He said, naturally, that he would welcome more District politicos signing the pledge.
“The challenge is whether people think they can do anything about it,” he said. “There’s a tipping point at which people get frustrated, and the people do something about it” — mentioning California’s famous Proposition 13. “We’re in the process of getting there in the city,” he added.
Will Norquist be around to see his prognostication pass? Now that he’s married with kids, he said, “One thinks about [moving] from time to time — taxes are a reason; schools are a reason.”
Perhaps local officials might accelerate the process a smidge. I mentioned several local politicians had voiced support for a Michael Bloomberg-style ban or tax on sugary beverages.
“Oh, that’s amazing,” Norquist said. “Oh, wow. I just thought it was a parody of liberalism run amok. I didn’t think it was a virus that could spread.”
Update, 10/26: Mea culpa maxima — Majors is at best the second D.C. candidate to take the pledge. Republican D.C. Council candidate Patrick Mara touted taking the pledge in 2008, a fact I myself had covered at the time.