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Sandoval Speaks Softly; Carries Big Stick

In his 15-minute statewide speech to Nevadans Tuesday night, Gov. Brian Sandoval spoke softly, but make no mistake, he’s carrying a big stick – that being solid support from Republican in the state Senate (Assembly Republicans are another matter; but their leader has relegated them to irrelevancy, so who cares?) who won’t give Democrats the 2/3 super-majority they need to raise taxes or fees.

Indeed, Sens. Ben Kieckhefer and Joe Hardy – both of whom were widely believed to be possible votes for higher taxes when the session began – appeared on Jon Ralston’s “Face to Face” program Tuesday night (because no Democrat had the nerve to appear on the program, the host informed us) and stated flat out that the higher taxes ship had sailed; that *if* they might have been willing to consider higher taxes back then, they simply aren’t now.

If Kieckhefer and Hardy were “in play” in February, based on their solid performance on F2F Tuesday night, they sure aren’t “in play” now.

In addition, Kieckhefer dropped a bomb on tax-hike advocates when he told Ralston that Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford has never had a personal discussion with him about the budget and possible revenue enhancements. To covet a tax hike, and need three Republican votes to get said tax hike, and never talk to one of the three Republicans most likely open to the possibility of voting for a tax hike is….

Political incompetence wrapped in stupidity.

OK, here’s the budget bottom line: Since introducing his $5.8 billion general fund budget in January, the economy has improved enough, in addition to other “found” money, that the governor is able to add almost $450 million to the pot. That brings his proposed general fund budget to over $6.2 billion.

Now consider the fact that Nevada’s government is currently operating on a budget of around $6.4 billion, and what we’re suddenly talking about is a budget cut of less than $200 million. Hardly “draconian,” especially considering the economic times we live in today.

For the Tax Hiker Caucus, Sandoval had some strong words, softly delivered: It’s time for government to make the same kinds of “sacrifices already made by those in the private sector” over the last three years. The state “simply cannot afford to deliver every program” people want. His proposed budget is “reasonable” despite all the yelping and hyperbole from detractors.

“Yet they offer no plan for how to find additional money,” Sandoval accurately accused.

Indeed, let’s not let the Democrats off the hook on this point. They will soon unveil their secret tax hike plan while claiming they haven’t had enough time to craft such a plan. Hogwash.

They’ve known since the end of 2009 that this day was coming; that the recession was likely to still be underway; that the one-time federal stimulus money wouldn’t be there again; and that the “sunsetted” tax hikes were going to, you know, sunset.

And if Gov. Sandoval could put together a budget with just two months notice, the Democrats sure as heck could have come up with a tax hike plan with over two years’ notice.

To play hide-the-ball with their tax hike until there was only one month left in the 2011 session is worse than irresponsible. It’s an insult to Nevadans who deserved to know what the Democrat alternative was with sufficient time to hold hearings and debate it.

Instead, Democrats have been hosting dog-and-pony shows using children as “human budget shields” while meeting secretly with special interests like the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce to shove yet another billion dollar tax hike up our collective wazoos at the last minute, just like they did last session.

But unlike the last session, Democrats don’t have Sen. Bill Raggio to run GOP interference for them this time. In addition, they’re facing a Republican governor wielding a big enough stick to kill softly any and all efforts to raise taxes on Nevada’s small businesses and families.

Game, set….