Do term limits help? I mean, do they really, really help our political leaders behave in a more responsible manner?
Well, my goodness they would have to, at least insofar as they show the door to the most corrupt careerists and make way for new people, more idealistic people. If you have some actual electoral competition in your democracy, that’s got to help some, don’t you think?
But is there anything more specific we can point to in the term-limits track record? Well, yes, there’s plenty. For one thing, it turns out that the state legislatures that have been term-limited for a while are now more willing to put a lid on out-of-control taxing and spending.
In an article for the Cato Institute, Michael New points out that term-limited legislatures in California, Maine, Colorado and Oregon have each enacted tax cuts that have surprised long-time observers. And the Montana statehouse, which has just seen a big influx of freshmen legislators, has passed a Tax and Expenditure Limitation bill that will be one of the toughest in the country if it becomes law. In Colorado, taxes were curbed by the same initiative process that brought term limits to that state, forcing the state government to hand back $2.3 billion to taxpayers over the space of just a few years. Colorado’s tax cut of 3.4 percent was the largest among the Rocky Mountain states, just as Maine’s 3.8 percent tax cut was the largest among New England states.
Term limits can’t bring tax limits all by themselves, of course. But gee, they sure do seem to help.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.