America Votes: Taxing time for Republican governor who cut the costs

What do American voters want when their taxes have already been cut by a third? Answer: more tax cuts. That is the awful truth emerging from this year's two state-governor elections and it has grave implications for those aspiring to jump from local to national politics.

In New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican of exceptional pedigree and personal wealth, faces an unexpectedly close race for re-election because her opponent, Jim McGreevey, fixed on two New Jersey gripes. Car- insurance rates there are the highest in the US and property taxes are high too.

It was a bold decision by Mr McGreevey to attack Ms Whitman on tax. She snatched victory from the Democrat incumbent four years ago on a promise to cut state taxes by 30 per cent in three months. To the astonishment of all, she did so with a month to spare and her example was quoted wherever Republicans gathered.

With the new governor's 30-per-cent reduction in their wallets, though, voters seemed simply to feel other taxes more keenly. Ms Whitman may explain coolly and calmly that the state governor has no control over car-insurance rates (which are set by the companies) or local property taxes (which are set by counties) but the voters seem not to believe her.

Mr McGreevey, mayor of a city which coincidentally has raised property taxes, accuses Ms Whitman of being in the pocket of the insurance companies - and so not wanting to restrict increases in premiums. Her cuts in state tax, it is murmured, "have to come from somewhere" - so this is why property taxes have risen.