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Republicans Who (are about to) Vote Badly

Before Republican legislators in the Assembly vote on the 2011 budget deal, probably later today, those who were in the Legislature for the 2009 session ought to do some serious soul-searching before they end up with a Kerry-like record on tax hikes; being against the sunsets before they were for them.

Fourteen of the fifteen Republicans in the Assembly in 2009 voted AGAINST the tax-hike package which is scheduled to expire at the end of the month – the lone exception being John Carpenter who apparently had a burning bush outside Carlin tell him to vote for higher taxes. So at least he had a good excuse.

Of the 14 Assembly Republicans who voted against the $600 million worth of tax hikes in 2009, ten of them are still serving in the Legislature: Ed Goedhart, Pete Goichochea, Tom Grady, John Hambrick, Richard McArthur, Joe Hardy (now in the Senate), James Settelmeyer (now in the Senate), Don Gustavson (now in the Senate), Lynn Stewart and Melissa Woodbury.

Of the three in the Senate, Gustavson and Settelmeyer are definite “no’s” on the budget deal; Hardy, thanks to the Boulder City “Bypass Buy-Off,” is a definitely “yes.”

And of seven of the ten still serving in the Assembly, only Goedhart, McArthur and Hambrick have committed to staying consistent and voting “no” on the sunset extension. Goichoechea is clearly a flip-flopper who will vote for the tax hike he voted against just two years ago.

But what of the other three? Will Stewart, Woodbury and Grady similarly hop on the deck and flop like a fish? Will they go on record as being against the tax hikes before they were for them? Probably.

But if they thought it was the wrong thing to raise taxes in the midst of a serious economic recession in 2009, how can they now suddenly think it’s the right thing to do? How can these three possibly justify such a vote?

They can’t, so let’s hope they don’t.

Here’s how the budget vote SHOULD go down in the Assembly over the deal that has been struck: Since they didn’t get the reforms they demanded for a vote extending the sunsets, the Republican leaders – Goicoechea and Stewart – should fall on their swords and give the 26 Democrats the two GOP votes they need to reach the 2/3 super-majority they need to extend the sunsets.

If Speaker John Oceguera can’t deliver all 26 members of his caucus, that’s his problem. No way, no how, should Republicans give the Democrats – who have treated them and their bills like an ugly stepsister this entire session – more than two votes.

Alas, here’s how I see the vote as we stand today:

DEFINITELY FOR: Goicoechea, Stewart, Grady
DEFINITELY AGAINST: Goedhart, Hambrick, McArthur and Livermore
LEANING AGAINST: Hansen, Hardy (Cresent, not Joe),
LEANING FOR: Kite, Kirner, Woodbury
UNDECIDED: Hammond, Ellison, Hickey
IRRELEVANT: Sherwood

For Republicans, the question isn’t whether or not the Democrats and Gov. Sandoval will get the two votes they need to pass the sunset extension. They will. The gut-check question is whether or not the majority of the caucus will vote to raise taxes on Nevada’s businesses and families or vote against raising taxes on Nevada’s businesses and families.

And yes, no matter how hard some are trying to spin this, the extension of the tax hikes is a tax hike. The 2009 tax hikes will expire at midnight, June 30, just as was promised to Nevada’s citizens. At that point, Nevada’s families and businesses will see their taxes go down some $600 million. At 12:01 am on July 1st, however, taxes will go back up again some $600 million. It’s a tax hike, it’s a tax hike, it’s a tax hike.

Anyway, as embarrassingly as Assembly Republicans have acquitted themselves this session, this final vote on the single most important bill will be an opportunity to save a little face and retain at least some semblance of an election issue for the next cycle. Will they take the opportunity being handed them…or will they once again blow it?

Tune in next time for, “As the GOP Turns.”