Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Roberson Opens Pandora's Box.

It was supposed to be "genius". Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) shocked everyone with his brand new tax triangulation scheme. In what will likely be a final and lasting break from his former political soulmate, Roberson proposed a new mining tax as an alternative to The Education Initiative.

Roberson figured this would be political master stroke. Find a way to bury The Education Initiative alive, throw Democrats into disarray, and claim new populist ground in proposing mining tax reform. What's not to love? It now looks like several of Roberson's fellow Republicans are answering that question in a way he didn't want.


“I'm not happy," said Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, whose rural Nevada district includes most of the state's largest mining projects.

“I don’t know if we’re sending the message right now to the mining industry that we’re going to throw you under the bus,” he added.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, opposed the move outright.

“I don’t support singling out on industry,” she said. “It wasn’t a good idea in ’03, and it’s not a good idea today.”

The reaction from many Assembly Republicans, who were not told ahead of time what the Senate Republicans were planning, was nothing short of anger.

“For those of us in the rurals, getting stabbed in the back by the Republicans — the party that supposedly opposes tax increases — is disgraceful,” Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, said.

Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, echoed the sentiment.

“A bunch of us think the six individual senators should have come to see us before making a decision,” he said. “They should’ve come talked to us.”

And to make things even worse for Roberson, Governor Brian Sandoval (R-Nevada Mining Association) quickly announced his opposition to the Roberson mining tax plan. Oh, and the gaming arm of "The Gaming-Mining-Lobbying Industrial Complex" (aka the Nevada Resort Association) won't support the Roberson mining tax plan, either (though it didn't really take any position on SJR 15).

Michael Roberson has now opened Nevada Republicans' version of Pandora's Box. He was hoping to fracture the left with this move. Instead, he's fracturing the right.

And Roberson's big move may ultimately create a constitutional crisis this session. Article 19 of the Nevada Constitution explicitly states any alternative proposed by the Legislature must be approved by the Governor. Since Roberson is proposing this mining tax as an alternative to The Education Initiative, it must be signed by Sandoval.

But what if Sandoval doesn't sign, as he's already signaled he will? Can Roberson secure the votes to override a Sandoval veto? And even if he does, is that even legal? Hello, Nevada Supreme Court! And welcome back, 2003.

Certainly, Roberson shook up the budget debate in Carson City with his new tax plan. He just so happened to unleash an earthquake where he wasn't expecting one. And on top of that, the new divisions among Republicans and "The Gaming-Mining-Lobbying Industrial Complex" give progressives an unprecedented opening to pursue real tax reform in the next 20 months.

All of a sudden, the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature is looking quite fun. And we have Senator Michael Roberson to thank for this.

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