Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell became the latest Republican to break with party orthodoxy on taxes this week, telling a local editorial board that he would back a compromise to raise taxes and cut spending. In an interview with the Charlottesville Daily Press, Rigell said he would back a plan to bring revenues to roughly 20 percent of gross domestic product in order to fix the unsustainable revenue levels caused by the Bush tax cuts and the GOP’s adherence to a no-new-taxes pledge:
“The American people are ready for the truth — they can handle the truth,” Rigell told the Daily Press editorial board. “They can handle solutions. They want solutions and they want leadership.”
And the truth, Rigell says, is that the “Bush tax cuts” coupled with Grover Norquist’s “no new tax pledge” signed by the vast majority of Republicans in Congress have locked federal revenue in at a rate that is unsustainable.
“We have a structural deficit that should scare every American across this country,” Rigell said. “I think our house is on fire.”
As Rigell noted in his interview with the Daily Press, federal revenues are at historically low rates thanks to the massive package of tax cuts signed by George W. Bush and the slumping economy. Republicans, though, have largely maintained that the U.S. doesn’t have a “revenue problem” and have blocked any efforts to raise taxes. Their stance nearly caused a debt default in 2011 — and did cause the first credit downgrade in American history — and could lead Congress over the so-called “fiscal cliff” this year.
A growing number of Republicans have begun to recognize this problem, criticizing Norquist and party leaders for refusing to consider revenue increases as part of any budget deal. Since last year, constituents at townhalls have criticized Republican members of Congress for signing Norquist’s pledge and remaining intransigent on taxes. Rigell disavowed the Norquist pledge earlier this year.
Rigell also criticized the House Republican budget for being “indefensible mathematically” if it did not include “revenue enhancements.” But Rigell’s moderate stance on taxes is new-found: he voted for the House budget, which gives $3 trillion in tax cuts to the rich and corporations, and has twice voted for the full extension of the Bush tax cuts. And instead of allowing the Bush rates to expire, Rigell told the Daily Press he would prefer to raise revenues by closing tax loopholes, a proposition that while not impossible is politically impractical.