(Assemblyman Ed Goedhart) – Recent newspaper reports suggest that Democrat leaders in the Nevada Legislature are plotting to go around the 2/3 super-majority requirement for tax increases and instead place a job-killing, recovery-crushing, “Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging, tie-dyed liberal” tax hike on the ballot via a simple majority vote.
I am absolutely opposed to any such a scheme…and I’ll tell you why.
Gov. Sandoval has proposed a budget that is balanced without raising taxes or fees, and I support him on that 100 percent. Indeed, I am one of four proud signers of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in the state Assembly.
Yes, many of the necessary cuts will be painful; but no more painful than the cuts many Nevada citizens, families and small businesses have already suffered and continue to suffer. If ever there was a time for Nevada’s government to live within its means, now, in the middle of this ongoing recession and high unemployment, is the time.
I would also point out the hypocrisy of such an action by any legislators who were serving in the 2003 session and refused calls back then to allow voters an opportunity to vote on what was, and continues to be, the largest single tax hike in Nevada’s history.
At the time, the argument was made that legislators were elected to make these kinds of tough budget decisions and that it would be a dereliction of duty to punt such difficult matters to the voters. How is the present situation any different?
Indeed, the voters have already spoken on this matter loud and clear. In their wisdom, they passed, by large margins, a constitutional amendment requiring a super-majority vote of the Legislature to raise taxes. Not once, but twice.
They reaffirmed their opposition to raising taxes last November by electing, by a wide margin, Gov. Sandoval who campaigned openly, publicly and often on a platform of balancing the budget without raising taxes or fees. The voters of Nevada knew what they were getting when they voted for Gov. Sandoval, and they gave him a clear mandate.
So I respectfully suggest to my legislative colleagues that it’s time to stop scheming on how to get around the will of the people – or as political columnist Jon Ralston put it recently, taking the “coward’s way out” – and come to the table to work seriously and constructively on balancing the government’s checkbook without giving it a raise, especially since any voter-approved tax hike couldn’t take effect until after November 2012 and wouldn’t help fix the current situation anyway.
That said, should Democrat leaders insist on pursuing this notion of putting a tax hike on the ballot, they shouldn’t short-circuit the initiative process.
Recall that then-Rep. Jim Gibbons, in pursuing his tax restraint initiative in the mid-1990s, went out and spent tens of thousands of dollars to collect tens of thousands of citizen signatures in order to place his initiative on the ballot. Similarly, former state Sen. Bob Beers spent tens of thousands of dollars to gather tens of thousands of citizen signatures to qualify his spending restraint initiative for the ballot in 2006.
Should Democrat Senate Majority Leader Stephen Horsford and Democrat Assembly Speaker John Oceguera desire to place a tax increase on the ballot, they should do it the old-fashioned way; by demonstrating a true interest on the part of voters to have their taxes raised by going through the same expensive and time-consuming signature-gathering process followed by Jim Gibbons and Bob Beers.
It simply shouldn’t be easier and cheaper to raise taxes and spending than it’s been to restrain taxes and spending.
(Assemblyman Goedhart is a Republican representing Assembly District 36, a rural district generally covering southern and middle Nevada.)