Jeb Bush has a tax problem … with Republicans

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Jeb Bush’s tax views have him in hot water with a number of Republican supporters, the people he needs for a possible presidential run in 2016.

In 2012, Bush indicated support for tax increases in a theoretical deal to cut the deficit, even if those taxes would be in exchange for massive spending cuts.

That doesn’t sit well with anti-tax firebrands like Grover Norquist, regardless of the fact Bush repeatedly cut taxes as Florida governor. Norquist was able to compel nearly all Republicans in Congress to sign his pledge not to raise taxes under any condition.

With many Republicans, tax hikes remain an abomination. Any support of taxes – even conditional support – could pose a significant problem for Bush if he seeks the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

“Mind-boggling,” Norquist told Brian Faler of POLITICO about Bush.

Taxes were the downfall of Jeb’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, in his bid for a second term after his famous “read my lips … no new taxes” pledge.

“If my father had thrown away a perfectly good presidency by raising taxes, I think one of the things in life that I would learn is, ‘Don’t do that,’” Norquist said. “But here you have Jeb Bush going, ‘I learned nothing from my father’s self-immolation.’”

Not helping matters is Bush’s take on immigration and education, which are decidedly to the left of Party orthodoxy. There is now a trio of issues that could hurt him with staunch conservatives, crucial for success in early presidential primaries.

Claims of being a forward-thinking Republican, Faler says, might work for education and immigration, but with taxes, it just won’t fly with the far right.

Bush’s readiness to consider tax hikes puts him in disfavor with Republicans in Washington, including Rep. Paul Ryan, the D.C. go-to financial expert.

Congressional Republicans have stood rock solid against tax increases, waging a number of battles to defend their position, including everything from stymieing efforts to cut the deficit to the risk of government default.

Bush’s divergence from the party on taxes came during a low-key House Budget Committee hearing in June 2012. A Democrat asked him if he would accept a theoretical plan to cut the deficit, rejected by all eight Republican primary candidates, including Mitt Romney, during a presidential debate in 2011.

At that time, Republican obstinacy on taxes was a critical issue for Democrats.

Bush’s answer came as a surprise to the panel, Faler noted.

“If you could bring to me a majority of people to say that we’re going to have $10 of spending cuts for $1 of revenue enhancement — put me in, Coach,” Bush told the committee. “This will prove I’m not running for anything,” added Bush, who at the time was the subject of speculation that he might become Romney’s running mate.

Bush also reiterated his refusal to sign Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, saying he didn’t “believe you outsource your principles and convictions to people.”

It is clear that Bush has no desire to raise taxes; he is just not ruling taxes out as part of a potential bipartisan deal to control costs that will come with the upcoming retirement of nearly 75 million baby boomers.

“Gov. Bush doesn’t support raising taxes,” spokesperson Kristy Campbell told POLITICO. “He also doesn’t support doing nothing about the massive national debt that has accumulated as a result of runaway spending and unsustainable entitlement programs. Saddling our children and grandchildren with $18 trillion in debt is not the solution to restoring a strong economy for our nation’s future.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.