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EDITORIAL: California’s House Republicans save GOP tax reform

Elected Republicans from the West Coast or Northeast are like the condor: endangered. And when it comes to having a spine, the California species has it all over the GOP invertebrates on the other side of the country.

The House last week passed a tax reform bill, 227-205. It is a significant — if incomplete — accomplishment. No Democrats supported the measure, and 13 Republicans were opposed. Nine of those were from New York or New Jersey, whose wealthy residents benefit by being allowed to write-off their state and local taxes, a loophole that the House proposal largely eliminates.

The deduction is a boon to high-tax blue states because it allows them to disguise their profligacy by partially shifting the costs to residents of more fiscally prudent locales. Democrats fear that eliminating the loophole could trigger taxpayer revolts in various progressive strongholds.

The pressure was intense on House Republicans from heavily Democratic states to oppose the reform because it caps such deductions to $10,000 for property taxes only. The New York and New Jersey contingents buckled. But California’s GOP delegation stood tall with 11 of 14 members supporting the bill. It would have failed without them.

Their resolve offers a “lesson to other Republicans in the virtues of having the backbone to go on the offensive,” writes Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel.

Ms. Strassel points out that California’s House Republicans faced a withering onslaught from state Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Jerry Brown, who argued that eliminating the write-off would burden Golden State taxpayers. But a funny thing happens when you have the better side of an argument. Confidence, resolve and enthusiasm bloom, along with an eagerness to articulate and defend your principles.

GOP voters in recent years have expressed a pained frustration with candidates who wilt in the face of liberal opposition and are petrified of standing up for the concepts of limited government, freedom and liberty. But California’s House Republicans suffered from no such hesitation and went after Gov. Brown and his penchant for high taxes.

“If Gov. Brown is worried about the tax burden, let’s make cutting taxes a federal and state project,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy in a video. Meanwhile, Ms. Strassel highlights, three of the state’s House members sent a letter to the governor pointing out that if eliminating the deduction for state and local taxes would cause distress to Californians, that is “a direct result of the tremendous weight that your misguided policies have put on California taxpayers.”

Indeed.

“The idea of Jerry Brown and Nancy Pelosi, who have spent their entire careers making it more expensive to live, work and do business in California, lecturing us on taxes is pretty unbelievable,” Rep. Ken Calvert told Ms. Strassel.

And that is the sound of a Republican who is unafraid to aggressively champion his beliefs. Let’s hope those words echo throughout the Beltway.

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