Sunday, March 18, 2012

All About Brian (When He's Not Even on the Ballot This Year?)

This morning, Anjeanette Damon has a Sun article on the continuing speculation on Governor Brian Sandoval's national aspirations. Honestly, I think Grover Norquist put that to rest last week.

So now, attention turns to what Sandoval will do next year. His surprise announcement on extending the 2009 tax deal indefinitely (right after Grover Norquist dissed him!) seems to have reshaped the dynamics of this year's race for the Legislature. Both David Schwartz and Jon Ralston pontificate on how it affects Republican Legislature candidates. Ralston seems to think that this helps Republicans in retaking the middle of the road, but Schwartz did note frustration from his former BFFs in Muth-land and NPRI.

And speaking of Muth, he's acting like a scorned lover (and quoting me!) in his rebuke of Roberson's rebuke of Grover Norquist. And earlier last week, he dared to go there in calling out Roberson's flip-flop on the sunset taxes. But ultimately, his anger is being directed at Sandoval for making permanent his flip-flop on the sunset taxes. Both Roberson and Sandoval may be leaving the "tea party" high and dry, but will Muth & Co. let them get away with it? Remember that there are a number of hot GOP primaries in Legislature races across the state. And no attempt at spinning the sunset extension as just another take on "no new taxes" will be enough to stop Nevada's arm of "Tea Party, Inc." from gathering more pledges and running scorched earth primaries. As we've talked about before, the Nevada Republican Party in 2012 holds Sharron Angle in much higher regard ("SHE'S PURE!!!") than Kenny Guinn ("He was LIB'RUL!!!") or Bill Raggio ("He was also LIB'RUL!!!"), so we'll see if "the base" reacts kindly to Sandoval's sunset switch-er-roo.

And considering the base reaction (pun intended?) to Sandoval's announcement, just what will actually happen in the Legislature next year? As we discussed last month, it largely depends on who controls the State Senate chambers. In fact, I still suspect that even after Sandoval's move, a Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson would have to do a whole lot of heavy lifting just to get Sandoval's budget passed.

But if Democrats retain the Senate majority, and especially if the Senate Democratic caucus grows this year, Sandoval will have fewer opportunities to work with the G-O-TEA faction in the Legislature for some sort of deal that exchanges the 2009 tax deal extension for more "tea party" legislation being enacted. Instead, he'll have to deal with a Democratic Caucus that's had to pay more attention to the growing chorus in favor of bold, progressive tax reform. In fact, David Schwartz had another Sun article today on the painful reality of recent state budget cuts.

A 1-year-old with Down syndrome had his every-other-week physical therapy cut in half after the state told his parents there wasn’t money for more frequent sessions.

The state would not pay for a 2-year-old with speech and cognitive disabilities to see therapists more than twice a month. Again officials cited the battered state budget.

A 2-year-old with Down syndrome had her sign language lessons and occupational and physical therapy appointments reduced by half. And instead of being seen at home, her parents take her to a clinic.

These cases and others, detailed in a complaint against the state, triggered an internal state investigation last month. Together they reveal a troubling fact about the impact of Nevada’s austere budget: Services to the state’s youngest children are being curtailed and sometimes not provided at all because of a lack of funds.

About 250 children, from newborns to 3-year-olds, are on waiting lists for such services. For the 2,447 children who are in the state’s program, plans for therapy are often limited, the investigation found. The complaint was brought by the Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center.

Now remember, Brian Sandoval is only talking about "flattening" the budget. He doesn't want to restore what was cut in 2009 and 2011. But as our population grows and social service caseloads remain high (due to the continued aftershocks of "The Great Recession"), "flattening" is far from enough to keep up with what our state actually needs.

This is why Sandoval's shift on the sunsets probably won't dampen calls to reform Nevada's tax code. We'll have to wait and see which petitions go out for which initiatives, but it's still looking likely we'll see signature gathering outside our local grocery stores soon.

And in the mean time, there will be pressure on Democrats not to give into Sandoval so easily and so soon. We're about to see a spirited primary contest in the new SD 1 because John Lee often strengthened Republicans' hands in Carson City (by often breaking away from Democratic ranks at the most inopportune time). And if this primary challenge catches fire, Sheila Leslie's campaign gains steam in SD 15, and SD 9 changes hands, it may just be "the perfect storm" that may really test Sandoval's ability to stay in the middle of the road.

So even though Brian Sandoval may not be on the ballot this year, he still looks to play a large role in this year's election. How he navigates the early stage of the budget process can affect what happens this year. And what happens in the election this year will ultimately determine how Sandoval will govern next year.


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  2. Let's not forget that Senator Lee has some stiff progressive competition in this years Democratic primary. He will have to swing far left if he hopes to beat out the progressive candidate Patricia Spearman.
    Mrs. Spearman has already started to tour the clubs and caucuses circuit and seems to be getting a much friendlier welcome from the Dem's base.