Chuck Muth: GOP Senators unite, declare tax hikes DOA

It required a do-over, but Republicans in the Nevada Senate appear to have now gotten with the program and are foursquare behind the no-new-taxes budget proposed by fellow Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

A couple weeks ago, Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness and Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea inked a joint letter to Sandoval pledging to back the governor's insistence on balancing the budget without raising taxes or fees. At the time everyone thought the leaders were speaking on behalf of their members; however, the very next day Sen. Dean Rhoads was quoted declaring his belief that taxes would have to be raised to balance the budget.

Following a series of e-mails and robo-calls into his district, some radio ads and a trip to the gubernatorial woodshed, Sen. Rhoads had an opportunity for reflection and has now revised and extended his remarks. The moderate Republican from Elko is now back on Gov. Sandoval's "No New Taxes" ranch.

But because of Sen. Rhoads' unfortunate statements, it became an open question as to whether the rest of the GOP members of the Senate - other than the four who had already signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and Sen. Greg Brower who already made a public and Shermanesque statement of support for the governor's no-new-taxes budget - were onboard.

Which is why a second, less ambiguous letter of support became necessary. And this week just such a letter was delivered to Gov. Sandoval which - because it's signed by all 10 Republican state senators - takes legislatively imposed tax hikes completely off the table in the Senate for the duration of the 2011 session, as Democrats need at least three GOP votes to get the 2/3 super-majority required.

The letter, dated Feb. 23, states that all 10 Republican senators "reject calls for new taxes" and expresses their "unwavering support for your plan to balance the budget while fighting job-killing taxes."

Not exactly Shermanesque and leaves a little room to weasel around a bit, but in a caucus that includes unrepentant former tax hikers such as Sen. Rhoads and Sen. Joe Hardy, this was probably the best they could all agree on.

And considering the Jedi mind-control powers Gov. Sandoval appears to possess, I think there's a darned good chance the 10 GOP senators will, indeed, stick together, thus killing any chance for Democrats to get the 2/3 vote they need to raise taxes and balance the state budget on the backs of Nevada's beleaguered, overburdened citizens and small businesses.

The problem now is with Assembly Republicans. For his part, Goicoechea undermined his own signature on the original letter by saying in follow-up interviews that he supports Sandoval's no-new-taxes proposal "for now." Paging Obi-Wan: "These are not the tax hikes you're looking for."

• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy grassroots advocacy organization. He may be reached at chuck


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