Raggio’s tax hike flip-flop | NevadaAppeal.com

Raggio’s tax hike flip-flop

Chuck Muth

In July, Republican Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, was fighting off a furious primary challenge by former Assemblywoman Sharon Angle and issued this seemingly clear and unambiguous statement regarding tax hikes: “This is not the time to start talking about raising taxes. It is something that we can’t even consider.”

I have to admit, Sen. Raggio got me with that one. Doggone it, when he said, “this is not the time to start talking about raising taxes,” I thought “this” meant in the midst of a recession when so many businesses and families were hurting financially. Silly me.

It now appears what Sen. Raggio was referring to when he talked about “this” wasn’t the recession but his primary race. You see, “This is not the time” apparently meant “not during the primary because otherwise I’ll never win this race against a conservative Republican who signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge which I refuse to sign.”

But now that the primary election is over and Sen. Raggio is safely back in Carson City, “this” is apparently the time to at least start talking about raising taxes, despite the fact that the recession is worse now than it was during his primary campaign.

“Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio said today … (that) all options ” including taxes ” are on the table,” wrote veteran political columnist Steve Sebelius in his blog this week. And he quotes Sen. Raggio as saying, “I think we do a disservice to our constituents when we sign those kinds of pledges. Why say you’re going to have a closed mind?”

Simple. Because raising taxes is wrong. Especially in a recession. You either believe that or you don’t.

Or you only believe it when you’re being challenged by a conservative in a primary campaign. And you only say it rather than put it in writing. Like when Sen. Raggio said to GOP primary voter Bob Kinnaman on the campaign trail last summer, “I’m not going to raise taxes, I can guarantee you that.”

Guarantee, huh? Doesn’t the very definition of “guarantee” mean you have a “closed mind” about tax hikes, even if you don’t put it in writing?

If while reading this about Sen. Raggio you experience a slight sense of dejà vu, it may be because history appears to be repeating itself. Yet another massive tax hike is in the works (though no one will admit it … yet) this year, Sen. Raggio appears inclined to support it, and he’s telling the world that Republicans who oppose it are bad and ruining the party.

Just like six years ago, when Sen. Raggio led the legislative effort to pass the largest tax increase in Nevada’s history.

Back on June 23, 2003, Sen. Raggio “warned … that increasingly strident anti-tax rhetoric was deeply dividing and damaging Nevada’s Republican Party,” adding that “comments being made in opposition to the proposed $866 million in new taxes are ‘irresponsible’ and threaten to destroy the party.”

Frankly, and with all due respect to Sen. Raggio ” whom I genuinely like and admire greatly for his service to the state ” it’s not the anti-tax wing of the GOP that is damaging and destroying the party. It’s moderates like Sen. Raggio who continue to vote for bigger government and higher taxes, confusing voters in the process and undermining the party’s fiscally conservative “brand.”

If the Republican Party hopes to earn back the trust of voters, they sure won’t get there by being Democrat Lite and again rubber-stamping a massive tax increase in 2009 the way many of them ” such as Assemblyman Joe Hardy (R-Boulder City) ” did in 2003.

And if Sen. Raggio really wants to help Republicans win in 2010, he should start by honoring his “I’m not going to raise taxes” guarantee to Bob Kinnaman.

– Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a limited-government public policy organization.