Commentary by Chuck Muth: Governor was against letting courts decide before he was for it |

Commentary by Chuck Muth: Governor was against letting courts decide before he was for it

Chuck Muth
For the Nevada Appeal

Our friend and political pundit Jon Ralston – who supports bigger government and higher taxes – is gonna need a chiropractor after all the contortions he’s going through to cover Gov. Brian Sandoval’s you-know-what over that budget deal. Here’s what he tweeted recently: “Sandoval right on counties attempt to get money back: Let the courts decide.”

Jon went on to maintain that the governor was right seven weeks ago for NOT fighting lawsuits likely to be brought by local governments, but is also right for fighting two similar lawsuits being brought now. Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt.

Sandoval was adamant back in June that the $62 million Supreme Court decision in the Clean Water Coalition case was, in his expert legal opinion, precedent-setting and that the state was likely to lose additional court challenges to his budget proposal, which essentially raided various local funds to fill the state’s budget gap.

As such, the governor opted to raise taxes rather than fight some $600 million worth of expected lawsuits. But now that $600 million worth of taxes have safely been hiked to balance the budget, the governor now appears to support fighting the two new local anti-raid lawsuits, arguing that the raids involved in these particular lawsuits took place before he took office.

Thin. Very thin.

No matter how you try to slice it, spin it or rationalize it, the governor is trying to have it both ways here. He’s essentially saying he was against fighting the local government lawsuits before he was for it.

That’s inconsistent, at best. If the governor thought the lawsuits could have been won, he should have fought all of them rather than cave in at the end of the legislative session. If not, then he shouldn’t be fighting these two now.

All of which has nothing to do with the true conservative objection to the budget deal. The real problem is that after deciding there was a $600 million hole in the budget due to his interpretation of the court’s decision, the governor opted to raise taxes rather than roll back spending to the 2007 level, as he had originally proposed and campaigned on.

Sandoval had the opportunity to force the Legislature to face economic reality this session and dramatically shrink the government’s cost, if not size. Instead he kicked the can down the road, assuring that the fight over the tax “sunsets” will reoccur in 2013. But sooner or later our elected officials are going to have to have the debate over the proper role of government and what exactly constitutes an “essential” government service.

Or maybe they should just outsource the project to me and Jon and let the two of us do it unilaterally over a steak and a Lowenbrau.

• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach. He may be reached at