Promising not to raise taxes — no how, no way, under any circumstance — might have seemed the smart political move for Brian Sandoval in 2010, when he was running in the Republican primary for governor.
But now that he’s running a state that is less than flush with tax dollars, he keeps bumping up against the line in the sand he drew as a candidate.
The latest is the agreement he reached with Amazon, under which the online retail giant will start collecting sales tax in 2014. Under the deal that Sandoval and his top staff personally struck with company executives during a meeting in the governor’s office earlier this year, Nevada will become just the seventh state to require the retailer to collect the tax.
The deal will be a $16 million-a-year coup for Nevada and was praised by the brick-and-mortar retailers as leveling the playing field with online companies, many of which don't collect the tax at all.
But it will also muddy one of his administration's talking points — that no Nevadan will pay more in taxes than they did when he came into office.
And that's something "Tea Party, Inc." will continue to scream about. Even in admitting the Amazon deal isn't really a "tax hike", Chuck Muth nonetheless complained that Sandoval was agreeing to yet another "tax hike". Once again, Nevada's "tea party" is mad as hell and refuses to take it any more... Even though these "tea partiers" can't even define "it".
OK, so maybe my last line was a bit harsh. But you know what's even harsher? Grover Norquist's tax pledge. For the last two decades, he's been boxing in Republican politicians across the country by forcing them to sign his no tax pledge, then threaten to turn them into rotten lying b-----ds if they cross him.
This is why Brian Sandoval is in a bind. He's been trying hard to erase his past of "tea party" flirtation by embracing what he had previously shunned and making the 2009/2011 "sunset tax" deal the new "middle of the road". But no matter how hard Sandoval tries to make the past go away, Grover Norquist and his Nevada henchman (Chuck Muth) always find a way to bring it back to the forefront.
This is why Sandoval has had to make so many backflips as of late. Even though Sandoval hasn't actually raised taxes, the Norquist-Muth tax pledge is so rigid and severe that even so much as a mere extension of a past tax increase, or an agreement with an online retailer to collect state sales taxes, leads to "The George Bush Dilemma". No wonder why Mitt Romney has had to shake his Etch-A-Sketch and veer hard to the radical right.
This is why Sandoval has to find excuses for what we once called "common sense governing". Because for Grover Norquist and company, "common sense governing" has become a crime. For them, even a corrupt "bailout happy" failed politician is better than an upstanding "moderate" who dares to cross their line on taxes.