Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lincoln Chafee has done something remarkable: He actually made news in a formal campaign announcement. The Providence Journal reports on the tax increase that the former U.S. senator suggested in announcing his candidacy for governor:
WARWICK -- In a high-risk political move, former Republican U.S. Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee coupled his official announcement that he is running as an independent for governor -- a job his father, the late John H. Chafee, held in the 1960s -- with a potential $89-million tax-raising proposal.
Right out of the gate, he said state leaders should "carefully examine" the possibility of adopting a new two-tiered sales tax in which some items that are currently exempt from taxation -- such as food, clothing and over-the-counter drugs -- would be taxed at a reduced new rate to help close the persistent gap between state revenues and spending.
One thing I'd presumed is that Chafee would run to the right of the Democratic nominee. I figured that Chafee would try to represent the centrist alternative to a liberal Democrat in this liberal state. I may have presumed wrong.
It's worth remembering that once Chafee lost his Senate seat, he became an outspoken Bush administration critic. There's a chance that he may run to the left of Democratic nominee by being a liberal who isn't encumbered by the political calculations that most Democrats make. A call for higher taxes fits that mold.
That said, I don't think many Democrats would consider it especially progressive to raise taxes on food, clothes and medicine. In fact, in the tax policy sense of the word it's definitely not "progressive." Whatever the economic benefits of more broad-based taxes, this suggestion doesn't look like one that will win Chafee friends on the left or the right.
What it may do is help Republicans recruit a credible candidate into the field. If Chafee's proposals aren't going to appeal to potential Republican voters, then a G.O.P. aspirant might think he or she has a chance in a three-way race.
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