This year, parents have more freedom to make the best decisions about where their children can go to school. Despite fierce opposition from teacher unions, school choice saw important gains in several states including Georgia and Washington. In Georgia, citizens voted to approve Constitutional Amendment 1, allowing for charter schools in the state. Washington similarly passed a referendum to support charter schools. In addition, Arizona expanded its school choice programs.
All of these will put the next generation on a path to success by tailoring education to meet each child’s needs, interests, and abilities. Unable to win in the public arena, teacher unions are now in court in Indiana and Louisiana attempting to overturn common sense school choice legislation that passed with broad support. Most likely, they will fail and children and parents will be the big winner.
Tax increases were also rejected in many states. In Tennessee and Indiana voters overturned the dreaded death tax. Citizens in Florida convinced their state legislature to kill a bill that would have imposed an internet sales tax, saving residents money every time they buy online. Furthermore this year, Kansas passed historic tax reform that represents the largest tax cut in history of the state.
There were other victories that allow more hard earned dollars to stay in our wallets. In Arizona voters ensured that a temporary tax increase will finally expire, and Oklahoma citizens voted to both cap property taxes and repeal an intangible property tax. Washington state also passed an initiative that requires a two thirds majority to raise taxes. Such a majority will help ensure that tax hikes are a last resort, rather than the only option.
While the lame duck Congress debates a budget deal filled with looming tax hikes, it should take a message from each of these states; Americans do not want increased taxes. Economists agree - hiking taxes in a weak economy is one of the worst things to do.
On another policy front, conservatives have also seen victories in blocking Obamacare in the states. For full implementation of Obamacare the federal government must rely on states to implement their own health care exchanges, but only under air-tight federal control. Such exchanges are dangerous for states. The costs of funding the exchange will skyrocket for states in coming years which are added to massive initial startup costs that result from attempting to meet mandates from Washington, D.C.
Ohio alone estimates a cost of at least $43 million just to get an exchange up and running. In effect, President Obama and his friends in D.C. are setting states up to be the fall guys. If anything goes wrong (and gee what could go wrong with a 2,000 page top-down Washington health care takeover) then President Obama will blame the state set-up exchanges for failing residents. That's just one reason why governors such as Chris Christie (NJ) and Rick Scott (FL) should get off the fence and refuse to set up these state exchanges.
The good news is, governors in twenty-two states have recognized the massive expense of setting up an Obamacare health care exchange and have rejected doing so. In Missouri, the recent passage of Proposition E blocks the governor from creating a healthcare exchange. Many other governors including Jan Brewer (AZ), Bobby Jindal (LA), Sam Brownback (KS), Rick Perry (TX), Nikki Haley (SC) and Nathan Deal (GA) have already stated they will not implement the exchanges.
Right-to-work policy also saw success in the Midwest. On the Michigan ballot, voters defeated two propositions that would have restricted freedom in the workplace. Proposition 2 would have guaranteed the right to collective bargaining, effectively limiting right-to-work throughout the state, and Proposition 4 would have unionized home health workers.
Earlier this year, Indiana became the most recent state to guarantee the right-to-work. The law ended a drought of ten years since a state had successfully enacted such legislation. Over twenty states now recognize the importance of allowing a worker the freedom of association in not being forced to join or contribute to a union. Furthermore, right-to-work states foster job creation, whereas forced unionism contributes to worsening job outlooks.
These victories, while encouraging, should in no way distract our conservative movement from executing a clear-eyed, detailed analysis of what worked and did not work over the past year. We must get bigger, stronger, smarter and more nimble while maintaining our principles. At the same time though, it is important to realize that we are making progress on many fronts and we can maintain faith in the sound judgment of the American people if we present our message with precision and boldness.