Chuck Muth: Time for lean 15 to mount up against our Artful Dodger governor

Gov. Brian Sandoval broke his word in the last legislative session and decided to extend some $600 million worth of “temporary” tax hikes passed in 2009 to balance his budget.

However, in early May 2011 the Economic Forum had declared that there would be an additional $300 million to spend thanks to a slightly recovering economy. So what the governor should have done — if he was intent on breaking his word about raising taxes instead of cutting spending — was extend only $300 million of the “temporary” tax hikes and use the windfall from the Economic Forum to make up the other half of the deficit.

Instead, our Artful Dodger governor picked the entire $600 million worth of “temporary” tax hikes from our pockets AND spent the additional $300 million windfall!

Fast-forward to this year’s legislative session. The governor already has built his budget around extending that $600 million worth of “temporary” tax hikes yet again. And once again the Economic Forum has projected another windfall for the upcoming biennium; this one a more modest $44 million bonanza.

Soooo …

Did the governor reduce the amount of “temporary” tax hikes to be extended by $44 million to give Nevada taxpayers at least a little relief? Heck, no! Instead he released the following statement.

“… I will propose that the $44 million increase be directed to K-12 education, health and human services, economic development and the rainy day fund.”

That’s right. Your taxes are going to go back up on July 1 while the governor spends the additional revenue being generated by a barely recovering economy. And with that in mind, hop into the Wayback Machine with me for a minute.

Ten years ago — thanks to the Gibbons Tax Restraint Initiative, which requires a two-thirds supermajority vote for the Legislature to pass any tax hikes — 15 GOP legislators in the Assembly banded together and blocked then-Gov. Kenny Guinn’s proposed “Mother of All Tax Hikes” (until the Nevada Supreme Court intervened).

Those 15 Republicans became known as the “Lean 15” by conservatives and the “Mean 15” by liberals.

Guess what? There are 15 Republicans in the Assembly this year!

Indeed, if today’s 15 Republicans were smart (cough!), they’d band together and refuse to vote for the governor’s budget and tax hikes unless (a) the $44 million windfall is used for tax relief and/or (b) serious changes are made to the Big Labor welfare program known as “prevailing wage,” which drives the cost of taxpayer-funded construction projects through the roof.

The 15 Republicans in the Assembly have an opportunity here to reconstitute the “Lean 15” and be both relevant and true champions of fiscal conservatism … if they don’t blow it.

We’re doomed.

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization. He can be reached at


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