Debra J. Saunders

Be it noted that the biggest spenders in Sacramento are the Democrats, who have opposed every reasonable attempt -- most notably the 2005 budget-reform measure Proposition 76 -- to curb state spending. Left to their own devices, I suspect, the Dems would go so overboard that voters would send them to go live with Gray Davis.

No Democrat signed the ATR pledge. State Democratic Party spokesman Roger Salazar explained, "You don't want to leave out any options when it comes to good schools, healthy children and a clean environment."

Salazar makes it sounds as if Sacramento Dems are responsible. Wrong.

Democrats would not sign the pledge because they like to pretend that they can balance the budget by raising taxes on the rich. They know that taxes on the wealthy tank during a recession -- which is how California ended up with a $35 billion shortfall in 2002.

Niello, who told me he does not believe in signing pledges, nonetheless argued that Republicans should say "no" to new taxes because, "It is more responsible to hold out as strongly as we can for a budget that is balanced without raising taxes." Many Republicans think they owe that much to their base.

Besides, Norquist told me, if Republicans agree to tax increases, Democrats will spend even more. Norquist has studied other tax increases, he said, and, "Every time you raise taxes a dollar, spending goes up $1.20."

The no-new-taxes pledge should be a bad idea because the Republicans are in the minority in the Legislature, and lawmakers are supposed to compromise. That's their job. In Sacramento today, there is no honest compromise. There are instead two parties dishonestly colluding.

Debra J. Saunders

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