Thursday, April 21, 2011

Californication... Is Here?

Here we go again. Republicans scream when Shelley Berkley tries to talk sense into them.

“I’m very careful not to criticize people in this room,” Berkley said, noting the debate that stretched almost until midnight on Tuesday. “But in my mind, gutting our education system is shortchanging our children and almost as importantly as that, it is undermining our ability to diversify our economy.”

Sandoval attended the speech but was unavailable after to give a reaction to Berkley’s comments.

Talking to reporters after her speech, Berkley said lawmakers can’t let revenue challenges deprive “an entire generation of people” of an education and stressed the importance of diverting federal dollars into Nevada’s education system.

And The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce (!!!) tries to do the same.

Seems the conservative folks over at Keystone Corporation are not happy that the supposedly conservative folks over at the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce are open to tax increases if certain reforms are enacted, that the chamber believes the budget cuts are deep and severe.

So they're out to sic Bob List on them? Wait, isn't he already busy trying to shove nuclear waste down our throats?

Wait a minute... Haven't we been down this road before? And is this getting way too familiar?

But at bottom there’s still the same old question: How much pain and inconvenience will taxpayers have to suffer before they understand that there’s no such thing as a free lunch? How many potholes and unsafe bridges; how many cancelled university classes; how high the tuition; how short the school calendar; how slow the response from the fire department, how long the wait at the DMV? Or do we simply not care?

The [-----], said GOP Assembly leader [-----], is trying to scare people by trying to tell them that the budget deficit either requires even more severe cuts than the state has already made or the tax extensions the governor wants.

That’s a false choice, quoth [---], "It's disingenuous to scare people." You can fix it all with fiddles and efficiency. And pigs can fly.

The [------] and [---] fellow Democrats say they’re not trying to scare people, just going to tell the facts, though he’s also said -- as he did at a meeting of the Service Employees International Union the other day -- that the worst case scenario [meaning no tax extensions] would be really ugly. He also says he’s going to focus on Republican districts and is urging his backers to “hug” a Republican. That’s not quite like saying kiss a frog, hoping he’ll turn back into a prince, but close enough.

[-------], the president pro-tem of the Senate, meanwhile, is saying he won’t support closing all of the remaining $15 billion budget gap with just cuts alone.

These blanks can easily be filled with the likes of Pete Goicoechea and Mark Sherwood on the GOP side, and by Steven Horsford and Sheila Leslie on the Democratic side. But guess what? It's an article about California's budget crisis!

Yep, that's right. Republicans here always make scary comments about this state becoming some sort of "Little California", but their very obstruction on the budget and diabolical brinksmanship games with state government are turning us into California!

Sometimes, I really do wonder if Republican legislators are spending time that should be used working on a budget deal to instead study up on how California Republicans have turned Sacramento into an endless game of "Mortal Combat"... Where the folks who get killed off are kids in need of education, and seniors & disabled in need of health care. Read Calitics' budget diaries and notice the strange air of familiarity to them.

It seems like both at the federal level and in other states, Republicans are exporting the California model of obstructing their way to broken government to the rest of the country.

So why are they obstructing? Why are they willing to drive Nevada off the cliff, California-style? As always, Desert Beacon has the answer.

Truth be told, federal income taxes on the American middle class are now at an historically low level. [CBPP] This begs the question, if federal taxes on middle income Americans are at an historically low level, and the Nevada "tax burden" is one of the lowest in the nation especially as measured by "business climate" criteria [TTF]  -- then who is doing all the whining?

The answer to that question should be relatively apparent by now: Corporate Interests and Upper Income Earners. Thus, we are not speaking of "taxing people out of their homes," (middle income earners having the lowest rate since Presley was singing "That's All Right Mama"), and we're not speaking to "taxing people out of their businesses" (if indeed the Tax Foundation is correct and Nevada is ranked 4th in the nation in business climate).  Assemblyman Livermore, and his GOP cohorts, are evidently more concerned with the revenue side of the corporate world than with the revenue side of the state government balance sheet.  There's no particular reason that the Assembly debate on the state budget would end any other way than in a stalemate  [LVSun] since Republicans like Assemblyman [Pete] Livermore (R-Carson City) have adopted an ideological stance at variance with economic reality.  When the mantra "No New Taxes" morphs into "No Taxes At All" it's hard to move the discussion forward.

What makes the argument about "taxing people from their homes and businesses" ultimately risible is the drift of the tax burden away from the ultra-wealthy in this country toward middle income Americans: "This diminished tax burden on the wealthiest has contributed to the historically low federal revenue levels we are seeing today, and in turn, to higher deficits. The Congressional Budget Office projects federal revenue in 2011 will total 14.8% of GDP—the lowest level since 1950. At the same time that the tax burden has shifted away from the wealthy, this same top income group has enjoyed  massively disproportionate income gains.  Between 1992 and 2007, a time in which income for the average household and top one percent grew 13% and 123%, respectively, the income for the top 400 households grew fully 399%." [EPI ]

It's really about ideology. California Republicans do it all the time and try to get away with it by hiding behind undemocratic supermajority rules and procedures, and Nevada Republicans now look to be doing the same.

However, the ending hasn't yet been written for this "True Hollywood Story".

"Our review (of Gov. Brian Sandoval's budget) has led us to believe additional tax revenue may be necessary," wrote Hugh Anderson, chair of the Government Affairs Committee in a letter released this afternoon. "However, let me be clear: The Chamber's willingness to support additional tax revenue is absolutely dependent on the passage this year of significant and meaningful reforms that will fix systemic problems that are plaguing our state."

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce has been seen as key to providing political cover for Republicans in the Assembly and Senate. Democrats need at least some support to pass a tax increase. [...]

Anderson laid out the effect of some of Sandoval's proposed cuts. It said class sizes would increase in grades 1 to 12 by two students, on average. It also said school district personnel would take a 7.8 percent pay reduction. It said core degrees would be eliminated from higher education.

If even The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce (!!!) is willing to come to the table and support badly needed revenues to keep our state alive, then Republicans need to be brought to the table. And as I said yesterday, this is the part where we go in and take them there.

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