Lincoln Chafee Promises that the General Assembly Will Pass His Tax Increase. But Do General Assembly Candidates Agree That He Can Speak on Their Behalf?
One of the distressing observations that can be made about Rhode Island’s established political class is that they don’t really seem to understand how democracy is supposed to work. For example, during last night’s Gubernatorial debate, independent candidate Lincoln Chafee took the extraordinary step of asserting that the legislature will pass his proposed expansion of the sales tax because it will be coming from the Governor. Eric Tucker of the Associated Press has the exact quote from Mr. Chafee…
“If the governor is leading the way on the tax increase, the General Assembly is going to go along,” Chafee said. “That’s the governor’s leadership. They’re going to go along.”But the whole point of having a Governor and a legislature who are elected independently of one another is that neither exercises absolute control over the other. Governor’s can’t promise that legislatures will do anything, and individual legislators are not doing the jobs they are elected to do, if they simply go along with what the Governor says — and most legislators are aware of that*.
Beyond the generally bad form of a Gubernatorial candidate promising that a co-equal branch of government will automatically pass legislation that he introduces, I suspect there are a significant number of RI General Assembly candidates who think a sales tax increase is bad policy on its merits. I know of one for sure — not because I am assuming anything about his position, but because I had the opportunity to ask him about it, after Mr. Chafee made his statement.
Jim Haldeman, candidate for State Representative in District 35 (South Kingstown) had this to say, about how he would vote on a sales tax increase proposed by the new governor, if he is elected to the Rhode Island House…
I will not vote to approve an increase in the sales tax rate. As taxpayers, we are certainly smarter and more efficient with our money than the government is with our money. An increase in any tax rate will be the catalyst to increased unemployment, the destruction of our already fragile business climate, and in the end, its final act will be a continued loss of tax revenue.If you think that Lincoln Chafee — who is the current frontrunner in the latest polls — has a shot at winning the Governor’s seat on Tuesday, and you don’t like the idea of his sales tax increase being passed into law, you need to be especially sure to vote for Assembly candidates who take a position as clear as Mr. Haldeman’s in opposing a sales tax expansion.
*That is, at least with respect to their relationship to the Executive Branch. Whether all Rhode Island Senators realize they don’t have to go along with whatever the House does is an issue that’s a little more unclear.