Scorecard: Only 7 Assembly Republicans seem likely to support Sandoval’s $1.3 billion tax hike

Victor Joecks

Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Majority Leader Michael Roberson have worked hard this session to give Sandoval’s massive increase in government spending — a budget that’s ballooned to $7.4 billion — an air of inevitability.

They’ve pushed this narrative even though the governor’s preferred new tax, the Gross-Receipts Business License Fee in SB252, is widely understood to be dead. Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford even stated that SB252 had no chance in the Assembly.

Despite that victory for taxpayers, the governor’s team and allies in the Legislature have publicly expressed confidence that they have the votes for some yet-to-be-announced “hybrid” tax package that raises over $1.3 billion in higher taxes, which will likely include $750 million in “sunset” tax increases.

But Assemblyman Pat Hickey, presumed to be close to Sandoval, only counts a handful of Assembly Republicans as certain to vote for the tax increase. Assuming the 17 Assembly Democrats vote for the tax increase — not assured — of the 25 Republican Assembly members, 11 must also vote for the tax increase. That’s because of the state constitution’s two-thirds requirement for new taxes.

Hickey recently posted two entries on his blog, Soup to Nuts, where he used a baseball motif to do a member-by-member analysis on which Assembly Republicans he believes are on the Governor’s “team” when it comes to passing tax increases.

Both entries are worth reading for many reasons. For one, the public will rarely get a clearer picture of what “inside baseball” is like in Carson City.

Here’s Hickey’s take on Assemblywoman Shelly Shelton:

Shelly Shelton: A quiet business owner and proud homeschooling mother, Shelly also won a surprising election last November. Whether it was the Republican wave or the Democratic puddle that placed Shelley in Carson City, it will be tough for her to come back if Republican coaches don’t recognize her as someone who wants to play on their team.

Implicit in that last statement is the threat/promise being dangled before many Assembly members: “Will you ignore the will of your constituents by voting for tax hikes in order to be on the establishment ‘team’?”

There’s an unstated implication that “playing” on Sandoval’s “team” comes with assurances of campaign contributions and assistance — both of which would be needed against a primary challenger appealing to GOP voters angry over RINO votes for the largest tax increase in state history.

Hickey identifies one assemblyman, Stephen Silberkraus, as applying to Sandoval’s “team” for a “long-term contract.”

Stephen Silberkraus: The Henderson freshman surprised the competition (both in the Primary and the General Election) and is a strong contender for the “Centerfield” job. He seems to understand that playing ball on Coach Sandoval’s team is probably the best guarantee of a long-term contract in his Democrat-leaning district.

What should be distressing for parents and taxpayers is the absence of discussion among the would-be tax hikers of the “merits” of the governor’s proposed $1+ billion spending increase. Former Nevada superintendent James W. Guthrie insightfully described Sandoval’s $721 million in new education funding as appearing “guided more by political expediency — greasing squeaky wheels — than a goal of effective education.” Many lawmakers also doubt that Sandoval’s latest proposals do anything other than throw more money into the already wasteful system.

What follows is a best-guess interpretation of Hickey’s list. It is important to note that these are not the positions lawmakers have publicly or privately taken, but simply what Hickey publicly stated about each. NPRI’s internal whip count has some similarities, but also some differences.

Citizens who want their lawmaker on the taxpayers’ team should email and call their elected officials and urge their friends, families and circles of influence to do the same.

Supporting tax hikes:

  1. Paul Anderson,, 775-684-8853: “Paul will be hitting cleanup when the bases are loaded and the game is on the line in the bottom of the ninth in late May.”
  2. Melissa Woodbury,, 775-684-8503: “[T]his season’s Chair of Assembly Education has distinguished herself as a tough and savvy education reform starter on the Governor’s team.”
  3. Lynn Stewart,, 775-684-8823: “Look for this third base coach to wave a number of Republicans toward home in order to score in legislative late innings for Team Sandoval.”

More likely than not to support tax hikes:

  1. Derek Armstrong,, 775-684-8839: “Armstrong’s alternative tax plan has earned him a spot in the final core meetings — and possibly may lead to a long-term contract if he plays his cards center-right.”
  2. Randy Kirner,, 775-684-8848: “Proposed reforms to PERS, collective bargaining, and overtime laws have assured fans that this Washoe lawmaker will be in the final lineup when the last pitch is hurled on June 1st.”
  3. Stephen Silberkraus,, 775-684-8855: “He seems to understand that playing ball on Coach Sandoval’s team is probably the best guarantee of a long-term contract in his Democrat-leaning district.”
  4. Pat Hickey,, 775-684-8837: “I assure you that I will be sitting there with my Republican teammates hoping we will be the victors after the final pitch is thrown.”

Not currently supporting tax hikes:

  1. John Hambrick,, 775-684-8827: “John now has the chance to be his own man and leave a legacy for having done so.”
  2. Ira Hansen,, 775-684-8851: “Do his feisty conservative leopard’s spots remain the same — or does he maneuver more to the middle in order to keep a “restoration” tour viable for next season?
  3. Jim Wheeler,, 775-684-8843: “In the case of Wheeler, Will money/power trump ideology?”
  4. David Gardner,, 775-684-8549: “Mostly identified with the conservative wing of the caucus, he may get an invite to Sandoval’s Spring Training next election season — if he demonstrates that he can play in the middle of the field.”
  5. James Oscarson,, 775-684-8805: “Sandoval hopes the ambitious Oscarson will be there in his final lineup when the season ends.”
  6. Robin Titus,, 775-684-8507: “Everyone — including the Governor — is wondering if smarts will nix prescription promises made to a certain libertarian activist before Titus came to town.”
  7. P.K. O’Neill,, 775-684-8825: “However, the Capitol City is a “company town” — and hometown favorites last only as long as they remember to tip their hats to their fan base.”
  8. Erv Nelson,, 775-684-8833: “Erv could very well be in the legislative leadership line-up next session — if he gets on base with the winning team this season.”
  9. Victoria Seaman,, 775-684-8847: “The best advice for this would-be big time player is to occupy center (and not far right) field — IF she wants to come back next season on behalf of her majority Dem district.”
  10. Chris Edwards,, 775-684-8857: “Coach Sandoval would no doubt be happy to have Edwards on his team, especially if he can play well in the center of the field.”
  11. Glenn Trowbridge,, 775-684-8505: “He’ll likely be counted on in the clutch by Assembly leadership.”
  12. Michele Fiore,, 775-684-8829: “She’d love to hit a home run this session with her ‘campus carry’ bill, but she’s unlikely to score on that count if she isn’t willing to play ball on other fields.”
  13. Jill Dickman,, 775-684-8563: “The question the coaches are asking: Does she want to stay long enough to be a long-term legislative player?”
  14. Vicki Dooling,, 775-684-8821: “Vicki has potential and might do well to learn to play the middle of the infield and not always get all tied up in the right side of the diamond.”
  15. Shelly Shelton,, 775-684-8541: “[I]t will be tough for her to come back if Republican coaches don’t recognize her as someone who wants to play on their team.”
  16. John Moore,, 775-684-8537: “I’m sure he believes it is an honor to serve. But for how long? It depends, in all likelihood, on the next 20 days — and on his votes.”
  17. Brent Jones,, 775-684-8573: “Brent might have it in him to consider learning how to play “center field.” (But, I doubt it.)”
  18. John Ellison,, 775-684-8831: “Ellison will likely be called on by the Coach to bat for the final revenue plan. Whether he does or not could be the game-changer in Carson City.”

*Individual legislator quotes all taken from Pat Hickey’s Blog, Soup to Nuts.

Victor Joecks is executive vice president of Nevada Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan, free-market think tank. For more visit