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Don’t Tax Me; Tax the Guy Behind the Tree

The column headline seemingly says it all: “Nevadans prefer tax increases over spending cuts by wide margin.”

In the column, Jon Ralston reported that a recent poll conducted for the Retail Association of Nevada showed that 52 percent of Nevadans “think the governor and the (Legislature) should raise taxes to avoid cuts in government services.”

“The significance here is that despite the relentless no-new-taxes mantra repeated by Gov. Brian Sandoval and his echo chamber across the courtyard, and fueled by the likes of Chuck Muth, the conservative firebrand, that’s not where the public is,” Mr. Ralston concluded.

But it’s not quite that simple.

First, let’s look at the exact wording of the question posed by Public Opinion Strategies: “Thinking some more about the budget shortfall, would you rather the Governor and State Legislature cut spending for government services such as education and health care, or raise your taxes to avoid these cuts.”

Sorry, but that’s a loaded and misleading question.

“Education” and “health care” are hot button words designed to evoke an emotional, negative response. Suppose instead the question was: “Would you rather cut spending for government services such as the DMV and cultural affairs?” Do you think the responses would have been different? Yeah, me too.

In addition, the question infers that there’s nothing in the education and health budgets which are non-essential and could be cut. That’s simply not true. As long as public high schools are still funding mariachi teachers, there’s room to further tighten the ol’ belt.

Secondly, the poll shows that when folks signal support for raising taxes, it’s not really support for raising taxes on themselves. Indeed, the poll’s summary shows 52 percent support for “an income tax on corporations.” What if, instead, folks were asked if they supported a tax on groceries, or an increase in vehicle registration fees? Again, I suggest the results would have been quite different.

What all of this really tells us, though, is that Republicans, as usual, are sucking eggs big time in the ol’ communications department.

While the Democrats have a united front of government employees, bureaucrats, liberal special interests, unions – and now the Retail Association – in opposition to spending cuts and in favor of tax hikes, Gov. Sandoval is pretty much out there all alone in defending his no-new-taxes budget. And the only reason there’s still talk of possible tax hikes is because the governor only has the publicly-stated support of six Senate Republicans for his budget.

He needs at least eight to block any tax hikes.

We’re only two weeks into the session and already Republicans are once again being rolled in the Court of Public Opinion. You’d think that eventually they’d learn. You’d think. You’d be wrong.