In 2003, a couple of assemblymen cobbled together a coalition of their colleagues to block a tax increase.
They held up the session until mid-July when the late John Marvel broke ranks and dissolved the so-called Mean/Fearless Fifteen. (The adjective depended on your perspective.)
The $830 million tax increase passed, albeit without a gross receipts component that Gov. Kenny Guinn had proposed to truly broaden the base. But that was small consolation for the Norquistian ringleaders, Bob Beers and Ron Knecht, who were the losers of that session.
Actually, they never went away. Beers, now a Las Vegas city councilman, and Knecht, now the state’s controller, are getting the gang back together to try to put the $1.4 billion tax increase of 2015 on the ballot next year. They are likely to fail — this is what these folks do best — but anyone who actually cares about the state’s future and is sick of demagogues manipulating the masses to help themselves should be wary of charlatans in anti-tax clothing.
Beers said Friday on the Las Vegas NPR affiliate that he met with Knecht last week to “put all these groups together and point them in the same direction.”
This is sort of like R.P. McMurphy trying to organize that field trip. What a nest of cuckoos this is.
A partial list:
A gaggle of county Republican parties and the state GOP have put forth resolutions condemning those who voted for the largest tax increase in history and vowed to defenestrate them and repeal the tax. I would bet all of Sheldon Adelson’s money that if I took a poll of these activists, a minuscule percentage would be able to:
A) Tell me the components of the tax plan;
B) Explain which small businesses would be affected; or
C) Provide even a partial list of what they would cut to make up the revenue.
Beers ally Chuck Muth, whose specialty is ad hominem screeds directed at people who don’t pay him, has made a living being a political arsonist. Generally, this results in self-immolation, but someone continues to keep paying him even though Muth has shown a propensity to turn on those he previously supported. So these frogs let this scorpion ride on their backs at their own risk.
On the surface, the coming battle, if there even is one should these groups find a sugar daddy, is a mismatch. These people would have to be upgraded to Washington Generals status.
Knecht, who was craven and not clever when he anonymously introduced a 2003 bill to rename Nevada as “East California,” and Beers, whose accounting skills allow him to play math tricks that indicate he missed a Common Core principle or two, are survivors who know how to rile up the base — or the most rabid base frothers. But that’s it.
Knecht is an accident elevated by the 2014 red wave who continues to believe he is the smartest man in the room and only proves he is not when he opens his mouth.
Beers, who recently withdrew from a U.S. Senate race he had no chance to win, is clever but has never expanded his appeal beyond the “we hate liberals” cohort.
The state GOP is arguably the most feckless political organization the state has ever seen. It is bankrupt and leaderless.
Muth vowed to defeat Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, erase many Assembly incumbents and recall Assembly Speaker John Hambrick and others. He didn’t come close in any of those endeavors.
I would consider this entire tax repeal movement a comic interlude if not for the coalition’s use of a big lie: That what was passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval is the same as what 80 percent of Nevadans voted against last year.
It’s not. It’s really not even close.
Sandoval & Co. showed sensitivity to the labeling issue by not calling it a gross receipts tax — it is the Commerce Tax. But a tax based on a company’s revenue is the only similarity to Question 3, the teachers union-backed initiative that was crushed in 2014.
People forget that Question 3 essentially had no moneyed backers beyond the teachers union, so the cascade of obloquy destroyed it. The Education Initiative was differently and poorly constructed, had a much higher rate than the Commerce Tax and had a dramatically different floor — $1 million in annual revenues vs. $4 million.
But that canard of an analogy is what the Assembly’s Know-Nothing Caucus used to oppose it during the session, replacing measured arguments with sound bites.
If Beers and Knecht can find money from outside the state (Grover of the DC Norquists? The Kochs?), and they would need a lot, this could be dangerous.
Sound bites, especially scare tactics, can win in a campaign.
On the radio program last week, Beers, in his characteristic derisive tone, said, “the Left is fond of calling those (who oppose expanding government) ‘extremists,’ ” retorting that it is the ones who voted for the tax increase who deserve the label. Oh?
Forty-eight out of 60 lawmakers voted for the package, with members of both parties talking eloquently about how the tax/education reform would move Nevada forward, especially in education. That’s 80 percent of the Legislature — a figure no Beersian math can obscure.
Only a small, ignorant bunch on the far right who bow to tax pledges more than thoughtful lawmaking, who believe in the continual dumbing-down of the legislative and political processes are likely to be hypnotized by the Beers-Knecht-Muth nonsense.
But remember what Edmund Burke said.
And if good men and women, from Sandoval to lawmakers to business to gaming to labor to progressives, do nothing, Nevada may once again be relegated to an embarrassing backwater.