Americans for Tax Reform targets Johnson on taxes

The anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform is criticizing Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson for not signing the group’s pledge to not raise taxes if he’s elected governor. The group, which is run by Grover Norquist, said Johnson’s refusal to sign the pledge is a “’Read my lips’ problem on taxes.”

Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson seems to think that run-of-the-mill politician promises are enough to prove his bona fides for November’s election. In his bid to secure the Republican nomination he has refused to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to Minnesota voters. The Hennepin County Commissioner stated, “I’ve never voted for a tax increase… As governor, my philosophy will not change.”

Here lies the “Read My Lips” problem. He isn’t the first person claiming to reject higher taxes while refusing to put it in writing for voters.

The group cites former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and President George H.W. Bush as politicians who said they wouldn’t raise taxes if elected but later agreed to a tax hike.

Johnson has said he was open to changing how Minnesota’s tax system is structured but would not increase the overall budget. He also said he would be open to expanding the sales tax to unspecified consumer services but insisted there would be cuts to other taxes. On his website, Johnson says he’d work to cut taxes if he’s elected.

Taxes are a necessary evil, but they are simply too high in Minnesota.

Governor Dayton’s appetite for higher taxes goes hand in hand with his desire to push government programs and regulation into every corner of our lives.

I believe we need to cut taxes and reduce the size and scope of government.  We also need to stop wasting the taxpayers’ money. I will initiate a top-to-bottom audit of the programs that Minnesota taxpayers fund. We will celebrate those that can prove they produce the results we claim to want; we will end those that cannot.

From the first day I am in office to the day I leave, I will work to put government back into its place as a servant of the citizens, not their master.

Johnson did sign The Americans For Tax Reform’s “No New Taxes pledge” as a legislator in 2004. Over the past week, Johnson’s political opponents have criticized Johnson over his stance. Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, has criticized Johnson for considering a sales tax expansion. Zellers said it the tax “hits those people who can least afford it the hardest.”

Zellers is the only GOP candidate for governor who has signed the No New Taxes pledge.



  • Craig Westover

    Johnson’s tax proposal is based on the economically sound principle of low, broad and simple. The current system is based on the concept of high, narrow and complex. Not all taxes are created equal and generating a marginal $1 in taxes in a low, broad and simple system is less disruptive to the economy than generating a marginal $1 in a high, narrow and complex system. The reason is excess burden — at the margins people in a high, narrow complex system tend to use resources that but for the the tax system would be spent creating new wealth; instead they us resources to lower tax liability, which removes resources from the economy for less than effective use.

    We need to change the tax structure. Changing the tax structure doesn’t mean generating more revenue for government, but no matter how carefully and skillfully done, changing the tax structure, reform, will mean some people pay less and some more across all income levels. There are ways to mitigate this, but the point here is that when that inevitability occurs, the tax pledge opens a angles/head/pin debate about what is and isn’t a tax increase. The tax pledge stands squarely in the way of needed reform — not because reform requires raising taxes, but because weak politicians are afraid of it being perceived to do so.