Week in review: Whose side are they on?

Andy Matthews

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.

Anyone who has paid even minimal attention to lawmaking has likely asked themselves at one point or another: “Whose side are they on?”

“They,” of course, being lawmakers, and the “sides” being either government’s or the people’s.

I had to ask myself that question this week after reading through Victor Joecks’ commentary on which Nevada Assembly members may vote for the largest tax hike in Nevada history. It seems some lawmakers, despite having been elected by voters who were strongly opposed to tax hikes, are considering switching from the People’s team to the Government’s team.

Lawmakers were sent to Carson City to play on behalf of the people, to fight against tax hikes; voters couldn’t have been clearer in their rejection of tax increases in November. But alas, some lawmakers, though hired to play on the People’s team, are being recruited by the Government’s team.

And the man leading the effort to raise taxes? Governor Sandoval.

Though he too was elected on promises not to raise taxes, Gov. Sandoval started playing for the Government’s team nearly as soon as the election was over. And now he’s trying to take some of those on the People’s team, especially legislative rookies, with him.

As Victor explained in his commentary, Assemblyman Pat Hickey offers some insight into the tax-hike negotiations in two recent posts to his blog, Soup to Nuts. Assemblyman Hickey offers his analysis on which Republicans he thinks are definitely supporting tax hikes, likely to support tax hikes, or currently unsupportive of tax hikes.

Assuming all 17 Assembly Democrats vote for a tax hike — which isn’t guaranteed — Gov. Sandoval needs at least 11 Republicans to switch from the People’s team to the Government’s team. By Hickey’s analysis (not NPRI’s analysis or any lawmaker’s public position), Assembly members Paul Anderson, Melissa Woodbury and Lynn Stewart have already abandoned the People’s team, while Hickey thinks Assembly members Derek Armstrong, Randy Kirner, Stephen Silberkraus, and Hickey himself are likely to raise taxes.

The good news is that even Hickey, presumed to be close to Sandoval, doesn’t think Sandoval has the votes for even his new “hybrid” plan that combines the problems with all the proposed tax increases.

For the remaining members, Hickey reports that Gov. Sandoval and his Government team are dangling the proverbial signing bonus: play for the Government’s team during session and get supported by the Government’s team come next election.

And, unfortunately, Sandoval has sent no public signals that he’s willing to negotiate for less than a massive expansion of government. Which means that any Special Session would be the result of Sandoval’s refusal to compromise.

What’s worse than the governor switching teams is that the tax hikes for which he’s advocating aren’t necessary. In April, NPRI released its Freedom Budget, a plan that would adequately fund government without raising taxes. Yesterday, a second budget proposal was presented to the Assembly Committee on Taxation and, like our plan, also finds no need to raise taxes.

This latest no-tax-hike plan was created by Controller Ron Knecht, Assemblyman Jim Wheeler and Assistant Controller Geoffrey Lawrence, whom many of you probably remember as NPRI’s former director of research. The Balanced Plan for Growth, as they call it, is a line-by-line alternative budget that not only doesn’t raise taxes, but allows those “sunset” taxes to finally sunset.

With November’s “Red Wave” and the 4-to1 rejection of the proposed margin tax, voters couldn’t have been clearer on the rules of the game: They don’t want more tax hikes.

Taxpayers need to continue to encourage lawmakers to remain on the People’s team.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.