Las Vegas Sun reporter J. Patrick Coolican inked an opinion column yesterday which outlines the strategy and tactical advantages of the “no new taxes” position. GOP legislative leaders ought to read it. It’s not all that complicated of a concept, yet Republicans in Carson City seem completely unable to grasp it.
“Conservatives launched a brutal attack last week on seven Assembly Republicans who voted for a voter-approved hotel room tax increase, with Ronda Kennedy announcing a primary challenge to Assemblyman Lynn Stewart for his vote on the issue. . . . But there’s a method to this demand for ideological purity.
“Let’s go back to the 1980s, when a young turk conservative operative named Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform. The Republican Party had been moving to the right since 1964, when Sen. Barry Goldwater won the nomination for president and said ‘extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.’
“Now with conservatives on the rise in the 1980s, Norquist saw his chance to purge the party of remaining moderates, especially on his signature issue of taxes. He began demanding Republicans sign a pledge not to raise taxes. When former President George H.W. Bush took his own pledge (‘Read my lips’), broke the pledge and then lost, the Norquist method suddenly swept the Republican ranks.
“Running for office required taking the pledge, and breaking it was political suicide. It was a genius move because suddenly, among press and public, it was conventional wisdom: Republicans will oppose each and every tax increase every time. Non-negotiable.
“…(O)n taxing and spending matters, Republicans walk into every negotiation with an advantage because it’s settled opinion that Republicans don’t raise taxes, so to get them to agree to it, you have to give enormous concessions.
“Muth hates taxes and would probably like to see the Legislature dismantle most of the government and privatize the schools. But there’s a nuance here: He also wants to hold together that Norquist discipline, because once it becomes conventional wisdom that Republicans are willing to raise taxes under some circumstances, then the political dynamic on taxes and spending changes in every future Legislature.”
Mr. Coolican is correct. I absolutely would like to dismantle much of government and privatize the schools – especially considering how badly the government and the teachers union have mucked up education over the years. Essential services only. Fire, police, courts, national defense. Assistance to those in our community who can’t help themselves, not those who won’t.
So my opposition to tax hikes is rooted in a philosophical belief of strictly limited government along the lines of that originally established by our Founding Fathers. But there is no denying there’s also a tactical advantage, as Mr. Coolican explains, for Republicans who know how to use it effectively. Alas, that apparently leaves GOP leaders in Carson City out. Just look at how they rolled over for the Democrats on last week’s room tax hike vote.
Seven Assembly Republicans voted for the third largest tax hike in history. And what did they get for it? Nothing. Heck, even Jack got some magic beans when he got ripped off. Minority Leader Heidi Gansert got bumpkis.
Of course, that’s what happens when you go into a negotiation completely unprepared. It would have been enormously helpful if Leader Gansert and her caucus had had a legislative agenda before the session started. They didn’t. So they’re now just winging it as they go along. And once again rubber-stamping the Democrats’ agenda instead.
The Democrats DESPERATELY wanted Republican votes on that tax hike last week to give them the appearance of bi-partisan support. The least Assembly Republicans who covered the D’s butts could have done was get more in return than what Uncle Sam gave the Indians for Manhattan. Instead, all they got was a pat on the head by Speaker Barbara Buckley and the undying admiration of the mainstream media for being “good” Republicans.
And it’s likely to only get worse from here. How depressing.