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Masters of the Art of Political War

I still can’t believe I’m doing this. But fair is fair – and the only fair thing to do is give credit where credit is due. So today I’m gonna tip my hat to…the teachers union.

No, silly. Not because they’re doing a bang-up job providing a quality education to our youth. Heck, that’s the thing they’re most terrible at. The fact that so many of our kids graduate without being able to read their own diplomas or count to twenty without removing their shoes and socks is testament to that.

No, the teachers union stinks on ice at educating kids. But that’s not their job. The teachers union’s job is to increase their membership by protecting members’ jobs (no matter how bad the members might be at those jobs) and increase the pay of their members (regardless of performance) so that those members can afford to pay higher union dues. So my tip of the hat to these folks today is for doing what they actually do best: playing politics.

In an effort to get more pay for its members, the union threatened to go after the casino industry last year. It began gathering signatures to put a gaming tax hike on the ballot, with the additional revenue earmarked for higher teacher salaries. But at the last minute last spring, the union cut a deal with three Las Vegas gaming companies to lobby the Legislature together for a hike in the room tax on tourists rather than on the gaming companies themselves.

Political extortion at its finest. And it worked like a charm.

Then, to improve their odds the union and the three casino operators persuaded three counties to place an “advisory question” on their ballots in November asking citizens if they supported the idea of raising the room tax to “improve education” – even though the money really is just to pay union members more money, not improve education.

The advisory question was nothing more than a taxpayer-funded public opinion poll, and it only appeared on ballots in Clark, Washoe and Lander counties. The majority surveyed in Clark and Washoe indicated potential support for such a proposal, but it was soundly thumped in rural Lander.

Nevertheless, the union effectively persuaded a number of naïve Republicans – including Gov. Jim Gibbons and Minority Leader Heidi Gansert – that the “poll” was an actual vote on an actual proposal which was approved by the voters of Nevada – despite it not even being on the ballot in 14 of Nevada’s 17 counties. A monumental stretch of the truth, to be sure – but, hey, they pulled it off. Some Republicans will fall for anything.

As insurance, the union also went out and collected enough signatures to qualify the exact language of their tax hike proposal as a “legislative initiative,” which means the Legislature has to vote on their proposal within the first 40 days of the current session. The Assembly did so this week.

And even though the Democrats and Speaker Barbara Buckley didn’t need a single Republican vote to pass this bill on behalf of their benefactors and blood allies, they sure wanted some political cover so Republicans wouldn’t be able to use the issue against them in campaigns in 2010. And sure enough, seven politically and philosophically clueless Republicans fell for it and voted the union’s way.

The bill now moves over to the Senate where moderate Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio will secure the necessary number of Republican votes to rubber-stamp the bill. After which Gov. Gibbons will formally spit on his pledge to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to raise taxes” by signing it, thus handing a ginormous victory to a special interest which is, always has been and always will be the GOP’s mortal political enemy.

Game. Set. Match. Textbook victory.

Maybe Republicans should stick to Tiddlywinks.