Assembly Speaker John Oceguera’s recent claim that Gov. Brian Sandoval “has made himself irrelevant in the budget process” for refusing to put tax and fee hikes on the table is, itself, irrelevant. The only thing relevant here is reality, and the Speaker is dealing in delusion.
Here’s the budget reality: Gov. Sandoval has submitted a $5.8 billion general fund budget. He has given the Legislature considerable latitude in how they can spend that $5.8 billion. But $5.8 billion is their allowance. Period.
Now, the only way the Legislature can increase their allowance is to get every Democrat state senator and three Republican state senators to not only vote to raise taxes, but to override the governor’s inevitable veto – which ain’t happening.
So the governor’s position of taking tax and fee hikes off the table is the ONLY relevant factor in the current budget war as long as at least eight of the ten Senate Republicans keep their word and stick with him.
The Democrat majorities in both the Senate and the Assembly are relevant in that they have the flexibility of moving money from one department to another, or from one priority to another, but they simply don’t have the votes to increase the overall pot of money they’ve been given to play with. Period.
Indeed, the only truly irrelevant entity in the budget process is, once again and as usual, Assembly Republicans.
Unlike their Senate colleagues, Assembly Republicans opted not to produce and sign a united letter of support backing their fellow Republican governor’s no-new-taxes budget at the beginning of the session. But as long as Gov. Sandoval has the support of Senate Republicans, no tax bill can make it out of the Assembly, through the Senate, and to his desk regardless of what Assembly Republicans do. Period.
Making matters worse, GOP Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea is on record saying he’s willing to actually negotiate with the Democrats to support extending more than $800 million worth of “sunsetted” taxes which would otherwise expire this June. However, everyone and their uncle knows that Goicoechea’s stated “demands” will never be met by the Democrats. Period. So how is that relevant?
But even if Democrats did agree to the demands, any tax hike produced by the Assembly, even with GOP votes, won’t make it past the Senate, let alone past the governor’s veto stamp. So Assembly Republican leaders have sold out the tax issue, their fellow Republican governor and their fellow Republican state senators for….um, nothing.
In any event, it’s not Gov. Sandoval who is irrelevant to the budget process. His no-new-taxes position is actually the MOST relevant aspect of it. And the sooner Speaker Oceguera, Senate Majority Leader Horsford and Minority Leader Goicoechea accept that reality, the sooner we can move forward.