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Pledges: Leadership or ideology?

SCV Voices

Posted: August 9, 2008 8:07 p.m.
Updated: October 11, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Candidates for public office must demonstrate they deserve the public’s trust, and if elected, they must maintain that trust if they expect to stay in office. Or at least, that’s the theory.

We know elected state officials sign an oath to support the U.S. and California constitutions, but wouldn’t it be advantageous to have them sign an additional solemn pledge to “do whatever it takes to solve the problems facing the state”? Isn’t that why we elected them? I would love to sign such a pledge.

So what would you think about elected officials who signed a pledge in direct opposition to the purpose for which voters elected them? Should they be thrown out of office?

A surprising number of local elected officials have taken a solemn written pledge that could assure that state services and systems will fall into total disrepair and will ultimately fail. These legislators would rather adhere to an ideological imperative than solve problem and serve their constituents.

I’m referring to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform “No New Taxes” pledge. I have some ideas about Norquist’s motives that echo Karl Rove’s anti-government ideology, but today let’s look at the restrictions and results of adhering to that pledge.

Norquist’s pledge for state legislators has them agree to “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.” That means they will vote against removing tax loopholes to the wealthiest individuals and corporations.

That means they will vote against increasing spending on K-12 education, assuring our children’s education will remain among the worst in the country.

That means they will vote against making it easier to attend California colleges and universities. They will vote against helping small businesses become successful.

They will vote against any plan, like several I have proposed, that may cost money now, but would lead to increased state revenues in the future — plans I call “Investing in the People of California.”

I find it unbelievable that any legislator would sign a pledge that prohibits him or her from taking actions that would help save our state from its current economic, social, educational, health and infrastructure downward spiral.

To find out more about the Norquist pledge and see who’s signed it, go to To find out more about how proposed budget cuts or revenue enhancements would affect our state budget, go to So guess which local legislators are unwilling to ask those individuals and corporations who are most capable of affording a moderate tax increase to do so — even if it means our state and its citizens fall further into an economic and social nightmare?

They  include: Assembly members Cameron Smyth, Tony Strickland and Sharon Runner, as well as state senators George Runner and Tom McClintock.

And these aren’t the only legislators who don’t care how bad the state of the state gets by pledging “No New Taxes,” no matter what happens and no matter whom it hurts.

It’s no wonder we can’t create a budget without killing what’s left of our state.

By increasing revenues now, from those individuals and corporations that can most afford it, as well as implementing new policies that will stimulate growth, we can stop cutting vital state services and provide the investment needed to help our citizens become educated and successful, and help our small businesses become successful larger businesses.

Eventually, we may even be able to regain our status as innovators and technological leaders.

Don’t we all deserve representatives who are not bound by an ideological restriction that limits their ability address the needs of their constituents? Isn’t it time to ask the legislators who’ve signed the Norquist pledge to recant and repudiate it? Isn’t it time for them to work for us?

So I ask you, are you better off than you were four years ago? Is the state better off than it was four years ago? Are our children’s futures brighter than they were four years ago?

If our elected representatives are unwilling to take the actions necessary to provide for the needs of the citizens, isn’t it time to elect new representatives? The decision is yours on Nov. 4.

Bruce McFarland is a Santa Clarita resident and candidate for California Senate in the 17th District, a seat currently held by Sen. George Runner. McFarland’s column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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