HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Republicans accuse Democratic candidate for governor David Ige of breaking a pledge not to raise taxes, but it turns out his Republican opponent never signed the pledge and the former governor, also a member of the GOP, also went back on the same pledge.
The Republican Governors Association is running a television commercial criticizing for raising taxes. Local Republicans claim Ige went back on an Americans for Tax Reform pledge that he signed years ago, promising not to raise taxes. Very few Hawaii Democrats sign the pledge, which is mostly signed by Republican office holders and candidates.
"A pledge is a pledge, is a promise, said Pat Saiki, Hawaii Republican Party chair. "When you sign that pledge, you promise the people to do what is says. In this case, David Ige said he will not raise taxes and then you look at history."
Republicans point out that Ige voted to end tax exemptions for certain businesses and hiked taxes for the rich in 2011.
"That is hardly what you call trustworthy," Saiki said.
Ige told Hawaii News Now: "I do not have explicit memory of signing it (the pledge). I have to admit that."
Ige said he did not sign the anti-tax pledge in the last four years but probably signed it about ten years ago. The Americans for Tax Reform said politicians who sign the pledge are bound to it as long as they remain in office.
"I believe it's just another attempt by the Republican Party to really confuse the voter," Ige said. "I don't know that it has any standing in this election, except to divert the attention of the public about the terrible years of the Lingle-Aiona administration."
The Americans for Tax Reform did not return an email and phone messages left Tuesday and Wednesday to verify exactly when Ige signed the pledge.
Republican State Sen. Sam Slom is the only other current Hawaii state senator besides Ige who signed the anti-tax pledge.
"From my standpoint, I wish people would hold people accountable," Slom said.
Slom points out that Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona refused to sign the pledge and Hawaii's last governor, Linda Lingle, also a Republican, signed it and then didn't stand by it.
"Linda Lingle, who I think was one of the first governors to sign the pledge and everybody was really excited about that, but she broke the pledge within a matter of months on the rail issue," Slom said.
Ige said, "I was chair of the legislative committee that was facing a $1.2 billion deficit and yes, we made tough decisions on what's the best approach to balance that budget."
"For the only time in the history of the state of Hawaii, we ended in the red. The state of Hawaii ended in the red. It affected our bond rating. It affected a number of other things," Ige said. "Their (the Lingle administration's) strategy for balancing the budget was to stop making payments to nonprofit community organizations who have provided important services. And then they refused to return the taxpayers' money. They withheld the tax returns for $260 million in tax returns for the people of Hawaii."
The Americans for Tax Reform, based in Washington, D.C., is a taxpayer advocacy group whose stated goal is "a system in which taxes are simpler, flatter, more visible, and lower than they are today." Its founder and president is Grover Norquist, a conservative tax activist.