(Steve Sebelius/Slash Politics) – Ian Millhiser, writing on the liberal blog Think Progress, accuses Sharron Angle of “…fighting against the Nevada Constitution’s requirement that all children have the opportunity to obtain a public education” back in 2003, when then-Assemblywoman Angle voted against a tax package that would have funded schools.
But that’s not what happened in Carson City that year.
Regular readers know the scenario: The Legislature passed every budget except the one that funds K-12 education, which couldn’t be passed until an $833 million tax bill was also passed, so the budget would balance. A 15-member contingent in the Assembly, led (in effect) by then-Assemblyman Bob Beers resisted the taxes, thus denying majority Democrats the tw0-thirds vote they needed to pass it.
The session ended, and a special session was called. It also ended without a resolution. Things dragged on as yet another special session was called. The new fiscal year started, and still there was no schools budget. Then Gov. Kenny Guinn ordered his then-Attorney General, Brian Sandoval, to sue the Legislature to get lawmakers to do their jobs. The state Supreme Court ruled — in one of its most infamous and poorly reasoned decisions, Guinn v. Legislature, later meekly withdrawn — that the Legislature could raise taxes with only a simple majority. The decision was rightly criticized, and Angle and some of her fellow Republicans sued to overturn it in federal court.
The stalemate was finally broken when then-Assemblyman John Marvel switched his vote to yes, enabling the taxes to pass. The Republican lawsuit went nowhere.
Now, while it may correctly be said that Angle’s vote against taxes delayed the funding of schools, it may not be said she fought against the constitution’s requirement to give kids a public education. She never did any such thing. The only thing Angle wanted — and, to an extent, it was what everybody in Nevada wanted at the time — was for the state Supreme Court to balance two seemingly conflicting provisions in the constitution, one requiring the Legislature to pass a schools budget, the other requiring a two-thirds vote to raise taxes. This is entirely reasonable (in fact, it was ultimately the Legislature that harmonized those provisions, in spite of the state high court).
No one at the time — not Angle, nor Beers, nor any member of what came to be alternatively known as the “Mean 15″ Republicans in the Assembly — ever said a word about not funding schools at all. They never came out against the constitutional provision calling for all Nevada children to get a free public education. They simply wanted to fund schools without raising taxes, by making cuts elsewhere in already-passed budgets. This was about taxes, not schools.
I covered the 2003 Legislature, and I strongly disagreed with those holdout Republicans. (Then again, I strongly disagreed with the state Supreme Court’s ruling in Guinn v. Legislature, and supported the lawsuit to overturn it.) I supported raising taxes back then, and stand by that view, which means I disagree strongly with Angle on the issue. But I also know what Angle did, and didn’t do, back then, and she did not fight”…against the requirement that all children have the opportunity to obtain a public education.”