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GOPAC Conference Pushes Conservative Reforms

By Frank Donatelli   |   Tuesday, 23 Aug 2011 11:39 AM

The results of the 2010 elections saw major gains for the GOP at all levels. In addition to winning the House of Representatives, Republicans gained over 700 new state legislative seats and 20 legislative chambers.

Republicans now have more state legislative seats (3,945) than at any time since 1928.

What is even more impressive is that these Republican majorities are shaking up the status quo, making tough policy decisions to shrink state government and providing essential public services more efficiently and at less cost. These Republican legislators are action-oriented, pursuing conservative reform measures all across the country.

GOPAC, the center for training and electing the next generation of Republican leaders, just last week concluded its annual State and Local Summit meeting. Attendees from 35 states discussed strategies to implement conservative reform efforts being pursued in their states.

These reforms are substantial and represent a dramatic change in the size and scope of state governments across the country.

The most widespread goal of the GOP majorities is to balance states’ budgets without raising taxes. This is a difficult challenge in these tough economic times, but every Republican-controlled state has succeeded in accomplishing this key goal.

The North Carolina and Minnesota GOP majorities faced down liberal Democratic governors to prevent tax increases. This solid record is in contrast to the few remaining states that are controlled by Democrats such as Illinois and Connecticut which have raised taxes without making any substantive changes in their states’ programs.

The participants also heard from Republicans leading the efforts to make state tax codes more business friendly.

It turns out tax cuts are not incompatible with deficit reduction.

Minnesota is phasing out a tax on all patients’ bills. Maine has reduced its top individual tax rate. Ohio is phasing out its “death tax.” Pennsylvania is phasing out its business franchise tax for thousands of small businesses, and Indiana reduced its corporate tax rate.

A number of GOP legislatures have reformed public unions’ collective bargaining rights and benefits, one of the main cost drivers in state budgets.

The unions receive generous healthcare and pension benefits while paying very little toward the cost of these programs.

Local “work rules” negotiated by the unions over time have made it difficult for local governments to control costs. Led by Wisconsin and Ohio, a number of states have reformed public sector collective bargaining and required public employees to pay more for their healthcare and pensions.

Education was a major topic of discussion at the GOPAC conference. Reforms that guarantee more choices for parents and students through charter schools, and vouchers are being enacted in many states including Indiana, Oklahoma, Florida, and Georgia. Participants agreed that competition can only enhance the educational opportunities for our children. The School Choice movement is having its best year in a long time.

These reforms are also aimed at addressing the main issue facing America today, namely growing our economy and creating jobs.

Unlike the Obama administration, GOP legislators understand that government does not create jobs.

Government can create the proper tax and regulatory framework to foster job creation by the private sector.

Liberals believe in government-directed investment. The GOPAC attendees heard from leaders in a number of industries — energy, finance, and food and beverage — about creative approaches by the states to create job opportunities for American workers.

Obama’s liberals believe in a “top-down” philosophy, reflected in the administration’s healthcare bill that mandates one national approach on policy matters. The Republican legislative class of 2010 is demonstrating that federalism which fosters multiple approaches by individual states is clearly superior to finding solutions to our problems.

Frank Donatelli is Chairman of GOPAC, the center for educating and electing a new generation of Republican leaders.

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