Ken Plum: Never say never
“Never say never” is an old admonition that suggests we do not know what the future holds that might predict our future actions. In the political arena especially there are so many changing currents that it is most difficult to predict one’s future action.
Certainly the politician who changes his or her position on an issue is bound to hear about it in the next election. At the same time there are advocacy groups, lobbyists, petitioners, and letter-writing campaigns aimed at changing the mind of a political office holder. When our elected representatives take positions that are contrary to our interests or those interests we value for the community, we work hard to get them to change their minds. If they do not change their position or minds, we can respond by not voting for them. Others will support them because they did not change their positions.
A contrary movement has been underway that seeks to have elected officials take a pledge or oath on an issue for which they commit to never changing their position. Most notable has been the “no tax pledge” promoted by Grover Norquist and the Americans for Tax Reform (
www.atr.org). Most political commentators would agree that the number of persons now serving in the U.S. Congress who have signed the no tax pledge has made it difficult if not impossible to get agreement on a financial plan that would reduce the deficit and help with economic recovery. A lot of media attention is being given to members of Congress who have indicated they would no longer be bound by their pledge.
Solving any problem is made doubly difficult when major solutions are taken off the table and never allowed to be considered. Contrary to beliefs held by some, elected officials do not like to raise taxes. It is the one issue about which they will hear in the next election, and it would not be responsible to raise taxes except as a last resort. We have not been able to resolve our traffic congestion or balance our budgets without painful cuts because taxes are taken off the table. State legislators are asked to sign the no tax pledge as well. In Virginia, 9 of 40 senators signed it as did 21 of 100 House members. The House members are not from just downstate; Fairfax delegates David Albo, Barbara Comstock, and Tim Hugo signed it as did Loudoun delegates Randy Minchew and David Ramadan.
As we face a crisis in having adequate funding for meeting our transportation, education, and social safety net needs, we will face some difficult choices. However those choices are made, we should never say never to possible solutions when meeting the needs of our community.
Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.