Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Some kind words for "Tony the Taxer"

When my dear friend and mentor, the late Lee Sherman Dreyfus, became governor in 1979 he did so after campaigning that the state budget surplus should be given back to the taxpayers.

Sensing the populist governor's appeal was a hit with voters, Democrats running the show in the legislature complained that Dreyfus wasn't going far enough in his plans to return the surplus. So Lee pulled a one-up on them and said, fine, you guys come up with a plan. They did -- and gave back even more.

The down side was that the state's economic fortunes reversed and the new governor, Tony Earl, wished he had that surplus to cover the rainy day.

So Tony sucked it up and called for a temporary income tax surcharge to cover the defecit. His opponents, including Assemblyman Tommy Thompson from Elroy, called him "Tony the Taxer."

Well, the economy turned around and the surcharge was removed earlier than planned. Tommy became governor and Tony went back to practicing law.

Tony took a political hit for trying to do the right thing and, in the end, his choice turned out to be wise. Maybe we could learn something from that approach. Maybe.

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