Buckley transparently hypocritical

Victor Joecks

Before the current Legislative Session began, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley spent months touring the state and promoting four "governing principles that must guide the State Legislature in achieving the mission." One of those principles was: "transparency."

Unfortunately, "was" has become the key word in that sentence. Since leaving the town-hall circuit for Carson City, Buckley seems to have forgotten all about transparency.

Probably the most controversial thing the legislature will do this year will be to propose record or near-record tax increases. But average Nevada citizens don't know which taxes are going to be increased, how much they'll go up, or whether entirely new taxes will be created.

Nevadans remain in the dark because Buckley and a dozen or so other lawmakers are holding closed-door meetings to discuss how they are going to raise taxes. Apparently, Buckley's commitment to transparency is so shallow that it doesn't even extend to the entire legislative body, nor does she even recognize how inconsistent her own behavior is.

Whatever tax increases lawmakers want would have to pass the legislature by May 22 in order to override Gov. Jim Gibbons' promised veto. If this were February, March or even early April, these closed-door meetings wouldn't be so significant, because there would still be plenty of time for the public to debate whatever the legislative leadership ultimately proposed. But it's May. For the tax increases to be veto-proof, they would have to pass the legislature in the next 17 days.

Some citizens will think that the final tax package is much too large. Some will think it's too small. Some will think that different taxes should have been increased or lowered, and still others will argue that Nevada didn't need to raise taxes at all. But since the process of crafting the package has been so opaque, Nevada's citizens will barely have time to learn about the bill, let alone share their opinions with their elected officials, before the bill goes to a vote. Let's at least hope that, unlike with the federal stimulus bill, legislators themselves will have time to read this one before they vote on it.

All of this helps explain why transparency isn't a partisan issue. All Nevadans, from all over the political spectrum, deserve ample opportunity to share their opinions on the potential tax increases, not just the few privileged legislators Buckley and Sen. Majority Leader Steven Horsford select.

Hiding information on plans for record or near-record tax hikes may be good (if cynical) politics, but it's not good policy. And it certainly isn't transparent.

And after Buckley spent months telling us that transparency was one of the "governing principles that must guide the State Legislature in achieving the mission," her current actions reek of hypocrisy.

Victor Joecks is the deputy communications director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.