Things are looking up for residents of the 25 super states where Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature and also the governor’s mansion. Read about a selection from the super group here, as Kyle Peterson from The Wall Street Journal interviews Tracie Sharp, president of the State Policy Network.
So what can Republicans realistically accomplish in the next few years? A quick survey of think tankers in states where the GOP gained on Nov. 8 suggests that the mood averages somewhere between bullish and giddy. Visions of tax cuts and tort reforms are dancing in their heads.
• Kentucky: “Republicans now control the Kentucky House of Representatives for the first time since 1921,” says Jim Waters, the president of the Bluegrass Institute. The GOP flipped 17 of the chamber’s 100 seats and defeated the sitting Democratic speaker. With all the levers of power in Republican hands, right-to-work legislation looks like a shoo-in.
Also likely, he thinks, is a law establishing charter schools. Kentucky is one of only a handful of states without charters. “The Republicans need to grab this opportunity,” Mr. Waters says. “Our biggest concern is that the Republican leadership will be too timid.” Somehow that seems unlikely: Gov. Matt Bevin has already suggested calling a special session in 2017 to revamp the tax code—and maybe even eliminate the income tax.
• Missouri : A new Republican governor, Eric Greitens, will replace term-limited Democrat Jay Nixon. “I think that we’re going to see bills that have been vetoed in the past, like right to work, go through quickly,” says Brenda Talent, the CEO of the Show-Me Institute. Last year the Republican House tried to override Gov. Nixon’s right-to-work veto but fell short by 13 votes.
Expanding charter schools, Ms. Talent predicts, will be an “easy lift,” and tackling corporate welfare is a possibility. “To give you an idea of the magnitude of the problem,” she says, “you could eliminate the corporate income tax in the state simply by eliminating economic development tax credits.”
• New Hampshire: With the election of the first GOP governor in 12 years, add this to the pile of potential right-to-work states. “The odds certainly are better than they’ve ever been,” says J. Scott Moody, the CEO of the Granite Institute. In 2011 the Democratic governor vetoed a right-to-work bill, and the House could not muster the votes to override.
• Iowa: Republicans retook the Senate, defeated the incumbent Democratic majority leader, and regained full control for the first time since 1998. Don Racheter of the Public Interest Institute says flatter tax rates are likely, as is a goal long-sought by social conservatives: defunding Planned Parenthood. In April the Republican House passed a bill to block Medicaid dollars from flowing to groups that provide abortions, but the language was stripped out by the Democratic Senate two days later. “Now,” says Mr. Racheter, “I think that’ll happen.”
• Pennsylvania: In October the GOP House fell three votes short on a bill to move newly hired public workers away from traditional pensions. As it happens, on Nov. 8 Republicans picked up three additional seats. “Every indication we have,” says Charles Mitchell,president of the Commonwealth Foundation, “is pension reform is coming back and it’s coming back soon.” The legislature may also put on the Democratic governor’s desk a “paycheck protection” bill, which would bar the government from collecting union political funds. “The dynamic has shifted considerably,” Mr. Mitchell says. “A lot of these issues were laughed out of the room, even under the last Republican governor.”
• Minnesota: A gain of six seats in the Senate put the legislature under total GOP control. “We’ve got about a $1.4 billion budget surplus,” says John Hinderaker, president of the Center of the American Experiment. “I think our Republican legislators understand that if they don’t provide some tax relief people are going to say ‘Well, why the hell do we bother voting for Republicans?’ ”
The best targets for repeal, he suggests, are the state’s taxes on commercial property and on Social Security benefits. There’s also MNsure, the ObamaCare exchange. When open enrollment began Nov. 1, Minnesotans saw rate increases up to 67%. “Something is going to be done. Something’s got to be done,” Mr. Hinderaker says. “This is why the Republicans won the election, in large part.”
• Illinois: Democrats kept the House but lost their supermajority, which will give Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s vetoes a bit more bite. It may also strengthen his hand in negotiations to end the 18-month budget stalemate. “You’re starting to get the liberal chattering class in Illinois saying ‘Come on Democrats, why don’t you just agree to one thing that he wants to do,’ ” says Diana Rickert, vice president of communications at the Illinois Policy Institute.
She adds that there is more grumbling than ever—even from fellow Democrats—about Michael Madigan, the powerful House speaker who has held that office, excluding a two-year hiatus, since 1983. “We’re trying to dismantle a political machine that’s been in place for 40 years,” Ms. Rickert says. “It takes time. But we are making a lot of progress.”
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