To the best of my recollection, Gov. Jim Gibbons only violated his Taxpayer Protection Pledge once in the 2007 legislative session " and now it's coming back to bite the citizens of Washoe County. Just like having a roll in the hay just one time, just one time can have catastrophic, long-term consequences.
Last year the Legislature passed, and the governor signed, a bill allowing Washoe County to form a committee to "study" the "needs" of the Washoe County School District " and if they decided it was necessary to do so, to recommend a variety of tax hikes to place on the November ballot. Well, when given a green light to choose between raising taxes and better prioritizing spending, the study committee ... di-di-di! ... decided to raise taxes. Go figure. What were the odds?
"WCSD-1" will ask voters to hike both the sales tax in Washoe County and vehicle registration fees. And the upcoming disingenuous campaign to pass it will be chock full of cynical, boiler-plate political flapdoodle. For example, the ballot question is officially designated "WCSD-1" " which indicates it will be Question 1 on the ballot and deals with the Washoe County School District. But according to the effort's new propaganda, WCSD stands for, "Warm. Connected. Safe. Dry."
Get it? If you oppose this effort it's not because you think maybe the school district should eliminate unnecessary, non-educated related spending or set some spending priorities. No, no, no. If you oppose this massive new tax grab it's because you're a cold-hearted SOB who wants kids being educated in cold, disconnected, dangerous schools that are dripping water from the roof like Niagara Falls.
Well, I'm not buying the notion that 8-year-olds are frozen in place to their desks with icicles dripping down from their runny little noses. And if we're going to stoop to outrageous and exaggerated propaganda claims in this campaign, then let me suggest the low-cost answer here is for parents to invest in some sweaters and maybe some long johns.
But give the tax hikers credit. They have successfully co-opted some leading Republican elected officials into signing on publicly to promote this money grab. The steering committee includes Republican Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, Republican Sparks Mayor Geno Martini and Republican State Sen. Randolph Townsend. What these folks haven't explained to us, however, is why we should raise taxes instead of tightening the ol' belt.
Or better yet, why we shouldn't attempt to shift some of the public school population into private and/or "virtual" schools through a voucher program, thereby allowing the district to consolidate and close down the oldest of the existing schools, freeing up more money?
In fact, in my opinion no Republican should support a dime of any new spending on public education anywhere in this state unless and until a universal school choice law is enacted. It's time for Republicans to stop selling out to the "mo' money" crowd without at least insisting that parents of all incomes be provided an escape option and the means to send their children to the school of their choice " public, private, religious or home school. Period.
That being said, the thing about this that should concern taxpayers in Carson City and every other county around the state is the precedent being set here " especially if voters are fooled into approving this money grab in November. If so, each of Nevada's other 16 counties will quickly follow the leader and come to the Nevada Legislature next year asking for their own "study committee" to put tax hikes on the ballot in 2010. And how will legislators and Gov. Gibbons, having already told Washoe County that this was okey-dokey, be able to say no to everyone else?
This is exactly what happens when you let the proverbial camel's nose under the tent. This is exactly what happens when you open Pandora's box. And this is exactly what happens when you allow even the slightest exception to the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
- 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 www.muthstruths.com. You can e-mail him at email@example.com