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I miss the heady days of January 2012, just 12 months ago. Sure, the economy was lousy, GOP primary debates were tedious, and “We Bought a Zoo” was still in theatres. But there was a faint glimmer of hope on the horizon.
Conservatives had made huge gains in 2010, the Supreme Court had a decent chance of tossing out Obamacare, and the presidential approval rating was well under 50 percent. If everything broke just right, the GOP could recapture the White House and start to fix the economic damage.
Business leaders and politicians at every level were holding off their big decisions. If we can just hold out until November, they thought. The cavalry is coming. Help is on the way.
Instead of the cavalry riding over the ridge on November 6, we saw an army of low-information voters demanding more taxes, more spending and a whole lot more debt.
Twelve months ago, state politicians had the luxury of hanging back and waiting for Washington to save them from their weak economies, stubbornly high unemployment rates, and unsustainable pension schemes. But today that luxury is gone.
The next four years are going to be tough. And if a state wants to survive — let alone thrive — its leaders need to make the big decisions themselves. Each state needs to create its own success.
Thankfully, a few governors are stepping up to the challenge. First out of the gate was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who wants to eliminate state income and corporate taxes while keeping the sales tax as low and flat as possible.
"Eliminating personal income taxes will put more money back into the pockets of Louisiana families and will change a complex tax code into a more simple system that will make Louisiana more attractive to companies who want to invest here and create jobs," Jindal said.
"Tax reform will remove administrative burdens from families and small businesses and improve Louisiana's business prospects; create more business investment opportunities with increased job growth; and raise the state's profile in national business rankings."
Next up, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman proposed a similarly aggressive plan in his annual State of the State address to Cornhusker lawmakers.
"Are we going to be satisfied with a mediocre tax system that won't create the jobs of the future for our sons and daughters?" Heineman asked. "Or, are we willing to consider reforming the tax code so that we have a modern, simpler and fairer tax code? Are we willing to consider a bold, innovative and strategic tax reform plan that would create a top ten business climate in Nebraska?"
Instead of punishing job creators and hard-working employees, Louisiana and Nebraska are (gasp!) trying to attract them, boosting their local economies in spite of the lean times ahead. In the process, they’re intensifying that healthy interstate competition to create new businesses and lure industries fleeing blue states.
It is past time for every state to get in on these common-sense, free-market reforms before their already tough economies get a whole lot worse. The cavalry isn’t riding in from the Beltway to save them. Each state needs to save itself.
Follow me on Twitter at @ExJon.