Fortunately for conservatives and Nevada Republicans, Garn Mabey is out as Assembly Minority Leader and Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert is now in. And Gansert has indicated she intends to do things differently than her predecessor in the hope of obtaining a GOP majority before the 2011 redistricting session of the Legislature. Here are two things she can do that would show the world that the listless, rudderless Mabey days are truly over.
First, sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. As we saw last session - yet again - even some legislators who signed the Tax Pledge nevertheless broke their word and voted for tax increases. So taxpayers are right to be especially skeptical and suspicious of elected officials who won't sign the Pledge.
In addition, the Tax Pledge is a potentially powerful campaign weapon if all 15 incumbent Republicans sign it and none of the Democrats do. This would be an easy to understand, ready-made contrasting campaign issue to run on that attracts non-ideological "swing" voters and independents.
If all 15 incumbent Republicans sign the Pledge and keep their word, as Gov. Jim Gibbons has done, it will be impossible for Democrat Speaker Barbara Buckley to pass ANY tax hikes in 2009, thanks to the requirement that all tax hikes obtain a 2/3 super-majority vote to pass. If all 15 Republicans unite on this issue, Democrat candidates will have to run next year on a platform of defeating Republicans so they can get enough votes to raise your taxes. Would YOU want to run on that platform?
But holding the line on tax hikes isn't enough. The big problem is spending.
So the GOP Assembly caucus should officially and very publicly embrace as a core platform position a similar pledge to vote against any general fund budget increase that exceeds the combined rate of population growth plus inflation. That spending cap in the 2007 session would have been a rather generous 13.5 percent increase. But the budget they all ended up voting for was an increase of more than 20 percent. Republicans simply cannot credibly claim to be fiscal conservatives if they keep voting for huge spending increases like that.
More than 150,000 Nevada voters signed a petition in 2006 saying they wanted spending increases capped at population growth plus inflation. Why in the world wouldn't the GOP caucus in the Assembly openly embrace what so many voters have already told them they support? If the Democrats want to spend more, let the Democrats spend more with Democrat-only votes. Again, this would be a great fiscal campaign issue, but only if the entire GOP caucus signs onto it.
These are two changes Republicans and conservatives should look for from the new Assembly caucus leadership before believing things really have changed for the better. It's not enough to just talk the talk and "say" things are going to be different. To become Nevada's majority party in the Assembly, Republicans need to boldly walk the walk as well.