Sometime in the next few days, you will make your most important decision of the 2015 Nevada Legislative Session. Given that you are all up for reelection next year, and are not guaranteed to be back for future sessions, it may well be the most important decision of each of your legislative careers.
That decision will be whether to support the largest tax hike in the history of the State of Nevada.
As my colleague Victor Joecks noted earlier this week, you five represent the crucial votes that will determine the outcome of the most important policy battle of the year. Gov. Brian Sandoval and his top legislative ally, Sen. Michael Roberson, are leading the charge to saddle hard-working Nevadans with $1.5 billion in new taxes. If they succeed, they will have truly made history — by using historic levels of Republican power in Carson City to implement the largest tax increase our state has ever seen.
I’m asking you to make sure they don’t succeed.
The pressure you’re under to support the tax hike is significant. Don’t think I don’t recognize and appreciate that. Both Gov. Sandoval and Sen. Roberson are Republicans who ran for reelection in 2014 on promises to keep taxes low and promote fiscal discipline. Both have broken their promises and, even as I write this, they are no doubt pressuring all of you to go back on the pledges you’ve made to your own constituents. The spotlight is on the five of you, and you’re no doubt feeling a lot of heat.
The reason I understand what it is you’re going through today is that we’ve been here before. Back in 2003, another Republican governor was pushing a massive tax-hike proposal. As is the case today, the final battlefield was the state Assembly, and the question then, as now, was whether 15 Assembly members — the number needed under the Nevada Constitution to prevent any tax increase — would stand strong against the governor’s efforts.
As you consider the choice before you, I want each of you to ask yourself a question: If this is indeed the decision that will define your political legacy, what do you want that legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?
I want you to think back to the point when you first decided to pursue a political career, and when you decided to do so as a member of the major party that, historically at least, has stood for limited, responsible government. Why did you make the decisions you did? What was it that motivated you to enter public service?
What were the principles and ideals that inspired you, and what was it that you wanted to accomplish during your time in office?
If someone — perhaps a constituent of yours — were to have told you back then that the fate of the largest tax increase in state history would soon be in your hands, what would you have told that person you would do? What would you have told yourself?
The intellectual case against this tax hike has been made clearly and consistently by a number of people, including many of your legislative colleagues and, yes, those of us at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. I won’t rehash those arguments here, because I know you’ve heard them enough times already.
All that’s left for you to do now is choose.
Twelve years ago, 15 courageous Assembly members did indeed stand strong against the governor’s tax push. They earned the nickname “The Fearless Fifteen,” and today they are remembered as taxpayer heroes for sticking to their principles in the face of enormous pressure — pressure that was every bit as strong as what you face today.
And now, it’s your turn. You have the opportunity to decide how it is that you’ll be remembered.
I don’t have to tell you that if you choose to give in to the pressure and support this tax increase, you’ll invite a good deal of criticism from me and my NPRI colleagues. You’ll be panned on talk radio, you’ll get ripped by conservative grassroots leaders, and you’ll get a lot of angry calls and emails from voters in your districts. Call it a hunch, but I have a feeling that a Mr. Chuck Muth might have a few words to say about your decision as well.
But don’t oppose this tax hike to appease any of us. Do it because you want to stand for something you know is important. Do it because you know that the principles that led you to seek public office in the first place are as true today as they were back then. Do it because you know that Nevadans deserve better than the same policies that have failed us for decades.
Do it because you know in your heart that it’s the right thing to do for our great state and its great people.
Mr. Matthews is the president of NPRI, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that produces and shares ideas and information that empowers people. For more information, please visit www.NPRI.org.