I went to
this conference as a guest of Grover Norquistís organization,
for Tax Reform based in Washington, DC. ATR offers all expense-paid
scholarships to a number of conservative activists from all over the
country. We get together at the Conference to meet and exchange war
stories about the latest government debacles -- state by state.
The first night there
Grover took about 40 of us out to dinner at a local restaurant. Most
of the diners were leaders of their Center-right coalition meetings
in states across the country. In Massachusetts the C-r meeting is
called the Friday Morning Group, which I have hosted the second
Friday of every month for almost 8 years. Grover had each of us get
up and say a few words. When I stood up I told them I felt like I
was at an AA meeting because, in front of all these conservatives, I
had to confess: "My name is Chip and Iím from...from...
MASSACHUSETTS! With great sympathy they whispered back, "Hello,
Interesting note: I had
two different people ask me if they were still working on the "Big
Dig" and what was the latest price tag? Also, some always express
amazement that we donít have a graduated income tax in this state.
Theyíre pleasantly surprised and then even more amazed when I tell
them its been defeated at the ballot box five times.
On Tuesday, ATR hosted
a working lunch and on Wednesday a working breakfast for those ATR
had invited to the Conference. During these sessions Grover went
around the room asking for updates on Center-right meetings and the
political situations/races in each state. The general feeling I got
from their responses was that the excesses of the tax and spenders
the last year or two will come back to bite them in 2010. The mood
was actually upbeat and looking forward to substantial conservative
gains next year.
I also had the chance
to give some pointers on organizing and sustaining Center-right
coalition meetings for some that were trying to boost attendance.
Our Massachusetts meeting has been averaging almost 50 attendees per
meeting this year, which surprised many of the other state leaders.
One came up to me and said he "didnít think there were fifty
conservatives in the entire state of Massachusetts."
We were eligible to
attend almost 200 panels, workshops, roundtable discussions, etc. on
every imaginable topic during this conference. Although there were
several that dealt with how the states are grappling with health
care, transportation needs, human services, etc. there was no one
panel I could find that focused just on taxes.
I did find one
roundtable discussion in which 18 people ( most of them appeared to
be state legislators) discussed how to deal with the budget deficits
in most of their states. After about an hour and a half, the
roundtable chairman asked for questions from the audience of twelve
- I being one. My hand shot up and I asked: "In the last 90 minutes
Iíve heard all sorts of reasons why youíre running deficits except
for the main one: The power of the public sector unions and their
ability to extort high salaries, sky rocketing health care costs and
fat pensions from politicians. When are you going to address these
runaway costs and stand up to the unions? Because unless you do, the
deficits youíve just been talking about will continue into the
There was about a 5
second pause after I finished, the roundtable resumed conversation
on other topic for a couple of minutes then adjourned. There was no
response at all to my question - as if I didnít even exist!
I spotted only two
Massachusetts legislators, Senators Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) and
Tom Kennedy (D-Brockton) at the conference. Iíve seen quite a few
more at NCSL Conferences in the past.
Lastly, I had two
Philly Cheesesteaks at two different places recommended by the
locals. I was slightly disappointed: the cheesesteaks in
Massachusetts are better.