On Monday, KSNV's "The Agenda" took on what's becoming a big issue in Carson City: Who's taking "the middle ground" on taxes? And really, where is "the middle ground" on taxes?
(Start watching at 10:30 below.)
We know how Brian Sandoval has been dancing on this, but there are other players who will be playing key roles here. For one, the renewed focus on C-Tax issues has brought Senator John Lee (D-North Las Vegas) back into the spotlight. After all, his committee has been holding hearings on this very issue. He also recently penned a Sun op-ed on community college reform. He's been getting out front on these issues.
However, controversy has also been catching up to him. California has flatly ruled out the kind of deregulation of Lake Tahoe that Lee spearheaded last year. He's also caught heat over his opposition to marriage equality, domestic partnerships, and transgender inclusive ENDA. But perhaps most importantly, John Lee initially agreed with Brian Sandoval's "no new tax" position until the Nevada Supreme Court's late May ruling completely reset the 2011 budget negotiations. So now, he's getting a primary challenge from Pat Spearman... And Nevada AFL-CIO is now signaling it won't fall in line behind John Lee.
Earlier today, Steve Sebelius joked on Twitter that "it's tough out there for a moderate". John Lee is starting to feel that. However, not all the primary action is happening on the Democratic side.
Rather, there's even more primary drama to be found among Nevada Republicans. Remember, the "tea party" here still feels betrayed after falling for Sandoval. So now, it looks like they're lashing out at him, Senate GOP Leader Michael Roberson, and all the Assembly & Senate GOP Caucus endorsed candidates who refuse to sign the Chuck Muth/Grover Norquist tax pledge. In fact, we're now seeing GOP Assembly and Senate primaries across the state turn hot over this. Even Pat Hickey, the incoming Assembly GOP leader that Muth once seemed to like, is now falling out of favor with Nevada's "Tea Party, Inc."
Just as I had suspected back in March, this is turning out to be much more complicated than Brian Sandoval's PR team had initially thought. They just figured Sandoval could simultaneously "claim the middle ground", help his favored Republican candidates in swing districts, and fend off calls for comprehensive, progressive tax reform, by agreeing to the sunset tax deal yet again. However, it's starting to look like Sandoval may have stirred a real hornet's nest in doing this. While Sandoval may yet succeed in claiming at least some "middle ground" for himself on the budget and taxes, moderates in both parties are now feeling the heat as the grassroots on neither side likes the politics or the policy behind the tax deal that Sandoval now owns.
Ah, the law of unintended consequences...