Arizona Republican Brewer Bucks Party on Taxes, Then Goes a Step Further

Arizona governor out to raise taxes—in a recession—and blunt her own party's opposition. What a mess.

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By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Efforts by Arizona interim Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican who took office after Democrat Janet Napolitano joined President Obama's cabinet, to raise taxes to balance the state's budget have been met with fierce resistance from grassroots conservatives. Now one prominent antitax activist is accusing the governor of launching a political pressure campaign against members of her own party who refuse to go along with her plan—and of doing it with the support of the state's GOP chairman.

"It has recently been announced that the firm High Ground Inc., a group that advises Governor Jan Brewer," wrote Americans for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist in a letter to Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen, "will launch a $225,000 media campaign against legislators who oppose Gov. Brewer's calls for a multi-billion dollar tax increase in the middle of a recession."

The letter added:

The Governor has made clear that this campaign, which targets fiscally conservative legislators from your own party, has her full-throated support. Several months ago Americans for Tax Reform asked your staff if rumors of a campaign to target Republican legislators were true and if such an effort would be supported by the Arizona State Republican Party. That inquiry, disturbingly, was met with silence by you and your staff.

It is no secret that you have close ties to those behind the aforementioned campaign. This is troubling given your duties as chairman of the state Republican Party and RNC treasurer.

As Norquist puts it, economists of all stripes agree that tax increases in the midst of a recession are a bad idea. In fact, he says, it is one of the few things they can agree on. And, he points out, the Center for Fiscal Accountability estimates that Arizona taxpayers spend 194 days "working just to pay for the cost of government."

Asking Pullen—who has reportedly also been a player in the interparty machinations that have made life difficult for Republican National Chairman Michael Steele—to repudiate the campaign against antitax GOP legislators, Norquist suggests, "It would be unconscionable for the state Republican Party to not condemn this effort."

One would have thought that, in the debate over rehabilitating the Republican Party brand, the one issue on which everyone could agree was taxes. Apparently not.

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