Chuck Muth: Voters spoke loudly on taxes, Supremes up next

Three incumbent Republican legislators went down to defeat in primary contests this week. That's almost unheard of " and there's a lesson in their losses for other Republican candidates in the general election.

First, incumbent Republican Assemblywoman Francis Allen " who steadfastly refused to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge promising voters not to raise taxes " lost to Republican challenger Richard McArthur, who proudly signed the Pledge and campaigned on it. McArthur didn't just win; he crushed Allen by a 2-1 margin.

Secondly, incumbent Republican Assemblyman Bob "Scooter" Beers " who reluctantly signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge after he was elected in 2006, only to break his word during the 2007 legislative session " lost to Republican challenger Jonathan Ozark, who had no reservations whatsoever about promising the voters of his district he wouldn't vote to raise their taxes. Like McArthur, Ozark didn't just win; he crushed "Lite" Beers by a 2-1 margin.

Thirdly, former Republican Assemblyman Don Gustavson defeated incumbent Republican Assemblyman John Marvel. As you'll recall, Marvel is the Republican who famously broke his Tax Pledge back in 2003 by flip-flopping and voting for the largest tax hike in Nevada's history. Gustavson is a solid fiscal conservative who signed the Tax Pledge and campaigned on it.

So three wishy-washy legislative Republicans on taxes have just been replaced (subject to expected general election wins) by Republicans who have joined Gov. Jim Gibbons in signing the Pledge. This should be a lesson to other wishy-washy GOP legislative candidates " such as Carson City's own Cheryl Lau and Clark County's John Hambrick (a former GOP chairman who should know better) " that Nevadans decidedly do NOT want their taxes raised ... period.

Which brings us to the next battle against higher taxes: A case that will be heard by Nevada's Supreme Court next week.

Last May, three initiative petitions " supported by an average of 115,000 citizen signatures each " were thrown out for failing to meet a new, silly, constitutionally questionable requirement for signed affidavits on all petitions affirming that the signature gatherer allowed the signers an opportunity to read the entire initiative, as well as report the number of signatures on each petition. One of those initiatives would require a 2/3 super-majority vote to raise taxes on any future ballot initiatives.

In addition to the constitutional questions about these new requirements " passed by the 2007 Legislature in an effort to make it more difficult for citizens to participate directly in their government " Nevada's crackerjack Secretary of State, Ross Miller, failed to update his office's guide on how to properly conduct such a petition campaign. The fact is, initiative proponents complied with the guidelines published by Nevada's rather sloppy chief elections officer " and then were penalized for it.

This is the same Secretary of State, by the way, who was regularly behind the Associated Press in reporting election results Tuesday night because he botched the simple formula to calculate percentages: Candidate votes divided by total votes cast. No wonder the teachers union loves him.

Anyway, a lower court tossed all three petitions a few weeks ago, and the Supreme Court will now hear an appeal of that decision next week. Clearly, initiative proponents demonstrated "substantial compliance" with the law. Clearly there wasn't even a hint of fraud involved in collecting the signatures. And clearly the problem was substantially caused by the failure of the Secretary of State to do his job properly and provide citizens with correct information. Clearly.

If the Nevada Supreme Court wishes to protect the government from citizens who clearly want to restrain the government's ability to continually extract more and more money from taxpayers' pockets, it will hide behind technicalities and the Secretary of State's incompetence and stop the three initiatives from appearing on the November ballot. If, however, the Court is interested in justice, it will not penalize the tens of thousands of citizens who, in good faith, signed legitimate petitions to put these measures forward.

What are the odds of the citizens winning?

- Chuck Muth, of Carson City, is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a political blogger. Read his views Fridays on the Appeal Opinion page or visit You can e-mail him at


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