(Mike Chamberlain/The Cranky Hermit) – Nevada State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford has an astounding op-ed in the Las Vegas Sun today. It is always amusing to see a politician urge others to put aside politics and ideology. Most of the time he’s really appealing for his opponents to abandon their principles and agree with him. This is exactly what Horsford is asking for.
In legislative testimony from every region of Nevada, fellow citizens have offered stories of their personal economic struggles, and those of family members, friends and neighbors. The loss of a job, foreclosure on a home, the struggle to meet a payroll, the challenge of rising tuition, the inability to make ends meet at home — these situations are all too familiar to Nevada families.
Rather than improving the lot of these people, however, Horsford’s plan would saddle them with an additional $1.5 billion in taxes over the next two years. Well, maybe only $1.2 billion. As co-blogger Patrick Gibbons pointed out, it attempts to bring back the spending of the housing bubble.
While this plan would finally eliminate the insane Modified Business Tax, it wouldn’t do so right away, allowing a future Legislature to extend the tax just as Horsford proposes to extend the increases in MBT that were scheduled to sunset this July 1. It also would replace that destructive, job-killing tax with another destructive tax, the Margin Tax or Modified Gross Receipts Tax. The Gross Receipts Tax was even too extreme for the 2003 Legislature, which enacted the largest tax increase in state history, and the Modified Gross Receipts Tax is only a slight improvement.
In recent years, Nevada has faced some of its most difficult days. In large part, because of long-standing issues with our tax code, an over-reliance on an economy focused on gaming and mining, and our failure to invest in education, Nevada has suffered the Great Recession more acutely than nearly any other state. For these same reasons, our climb back to economic growth has lagged behind most states.
Two of the three largest tax increases in state history occurred in the last decade. Inflation-adjusted per capita state spending increased over 30% in less than a decade during the 2000’s. But, according to Horsford, the problem with Nevada’s economy is that state government did not tax and spend enough.
The reason government revenues are down is because of the decline in private sector economic activity as the housing bubble burst. Nevada, especially Las Vegas, benefitted more than virtually anywhere else from the housing bubble. Government policy, which created an artificial land shortage in the Las Vegas valley as the federal government literally rationed land for development, may have played a prominent role. It is not surprising that such an area would also suffer more severe effects from the bursting of that bubble. But admitting that it is the government that lives off the private sector, not the other way around, doesn’t suit the agenda.
As the current legislative session approached, I hoped our state’s political representatives would set politics and ideology aside, and then find a balanced solution to address Nevada’s many challenges — a solution that would position Nevada for long-term success. I asked the governor and legislators from both parties to join me in an adult conversation, and to consider every option at our disposal. Unfortunately, politics and ideology continue to hinder an open dialogue.
After helping to orchestrate a three-month temper tantrum by government unions, students and other tax consumers, Horsford’s desire for an “adult conversation” is almost laughable. Instead of presenting a plan and engaging in a real debate, we were treated to dog-and-pony shows and demonstrations designed to demonize Governor Sandoval and supporters of the governor’s budget. Horsford’s and his big government allies’ attempts to bully and shame the opposition into abandoning their principles were the lowest form of politics.
But perhaps Horsford’s wish to set aside politics is based upon the fact that he has proven so inept at the compromise and persuasion required to succeed.
In order to pass his plan, Horsford needs support from at least 3 Republican Senators and 2 GOP members of the Assembly. There may have been, and may still be, Republican legislators who would support tax increases in exchange for certain government reforms – collective bargaining, Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), etc. Horsford, his caucus and their counterparts in the Assembly, killed virtually every reform initiative offered by the governor or Republican legislators.
One of those identified long ago by conservatives as among the most likely to be swayed is freshman Senator Ben Kieckhefer. Last week on Jon Ralston’s Face-to-Face, Kieckhefer revealed the absolutely astonishing fact that, during the entire three months of the session, Horsford had not even so much as requested a meeting with the freshman to discuss the budget.
It is obvious that Horsford and the rest of the Democrat leadership never had any intention of negotiating anything with Republicans. They were hoping to be able to browbeat Republicans into supporting the tax increases they had planned from the beginning without having to relinquish anything to the GOP minority.
They rarely let bills from the minority see the light of day, made virtually no attempt at outreach, encouraged (when not actively participating in) the disgraceful theater designed to bully and shame Republicans into renouncing the governor’s budget proposal, all the while offering no alternative of their own. About the only testimony that could be made in their favor is they didn’t abandon their jobs and flee the state as legislators in Wisconsin and Indiana have done (at least not yet anyway).
Yet now, after this shameful performance failed to achieve its desired result and the clock is ticking, SML Horsford pleads with his opponents to cast aside their principles and renounce their promises to those who elected them to give him what he wants. Arrogance doesn’t even begin to describe it.