(NPRI) – LAS VEGAS — Just 20 lawmakers achieved voting records generally favorable to taxpayers during the 2015 Legislative Session, a new report from the Nevada Policy Research Institute finds.
NPRI’s 2015 edition of its biennial Nevada Legislative Session Review & Report Card, released today, scores lawmakers on over 80-floor votes and includes a detailed, insider narrative of the session by NPRI executive vice president Victor Joecks.
Although Republicans had unexpectedly gained control of both Legislative chambers, Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Majority Leader Michael Roberson used their influence to push successfully for the largest tax increase in state history, while working behind the scenes to stop or weaken various pension and labor reforms.
The report-card rankings are calculated by the same system that the National Taxpayers Union uses to rate members of Congress. Based on a scale of zero through 100, the rankings at the high end of the scale indicate a greater commitment to low taxes, limited, accountable government and implementation of needed reforms. Legislators who score 50 or above are generally considered allies of economic liberty.
Only 20 of the 63 members of the Legislature earned scores at or above 50 percent. A quartet of Republican Assemblywomen, however, earned scores above 90 percent — better than any lawmaker scored during the 2013 Session.
Assemblywoman Robin Titus topped all lawmakers with score of 93.17 percent and earned the distinction of the “taxpayer’s best friend.” Assemblywomen Shelly Shelton, 92.86 percent, Michele Fiore, 92.78 percent, and Jill Dickman, 90.68 percent, also represented taxpayers extremely well. Men scoring highest in the Assembly included Brent Jones, 89.75 percent, and John Ellison, 89.42 percent. In the Senate, Don Gustavson, at 86.2 percent, had the highest score.
At the other end, Assemblywomen Maggie Carlton earned just a 11.8 percent — the lowest score of any politician.
Based on his decision to sign the largest tax increase in state history and bloated spending bills, Gov. Sandoval earned a score of just 43.48 percent. Sandoval and other lawmakers did receive credit for important reform bills like SB302, creating Education Savings Accounts, and AB125, reforming Nevada’s construction defects law.
“These grades make clear who voted on behalf of taxpayers and who decided to please the special-interest lobbyists that swarmed Carson City,” said Joecks. “When talking with voters, Republican candidates pledged their support for lower taxes and less government. Unfortunately, many of those same politicians went back on their commitments and voted for the largest tax increase in Nevada history.
“Because most Nevadans don’t have time to track over 80 floor votes, NPRI’s scorecard provides a consolidated measurement of how a lawmaker’s votes advanced or hindered economic liberty.”
Elected Republican legislative leaders had some of the lowest scores in their caucuses. Speaker John Hambrick and Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, who the report notes was the individual widely considered the driving force in Assembly leadership, had identical scores of 43.79 percent. The average for the Assembly caucus, however, was 65.37 percent.
Roberson and five other Republican Senators, Greg Brower, Patricia Farley, Joe Hardy, Becky Harris and Ben Kieckhefer, all had identical scores, earning grades of just 38.72 percent. The Senate Republican caucus average was 49.77 percent.
“The scores from the Report Card also show just how important leadership is in the Legislative process. With left-leaning Republicans at the helm, lawmakers considered the largest tax increase in state history, instead of pushing through substantive and needed labor and pension reforms,” said Joecks.
The narrative also explains how Assembly leaders undercut conservatives in the GOP caucus who were open to compromise, in order to pass even more liberal measures, such as SB207, a $4-plus billion property tax increase that was imposed with no popular vote.
The 2015 Nevada Legislative Session Review & Report Card also identifies the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to the passage of SB302. Among other factors, the capitol building buzzed with reports that Assemblyman Pat Hickey told Sandoval that Hickey wouldn’t support Sandoval’s tax increases without the passage of SB302. In the week preceding the tax vote, SB302 passed Senate Finance, the Senate, Assembly Education and the Assembly in the course of four days.
“The grades in NPRI’s Report Card simply reflect a lawmaker’s record. These scores reveal lawmaker’s votes, not often-hollow promises made to constituents,” noted Joecks.
“These Report Card scores give voters the ability to cut through political rhetoric and identify whether their legislators are actually committed to advancing conservative goals or are just campaigning as conservatives to get elected.”
NPRI is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank that produces and shares ideas and information that empowers people. For more information, please visit www.NPRI.org.