Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Carpe Diem (Delayed, But Not Destroyed)

Surprise! As the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature begins to end, it's all but certain now that the state budget will be looking quite "Gov Rec". After all the drama and all the "conversations" on tax reform, Governor Brian Sandoval (R-Denial) seems to be getting his way after all.

“We have talked about education ad nauseam,” said Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas. “It’s not going to go anywhere. We realized that today.”

Not that Democrats are happy about it. Angry, resigned, tearful, frustrated and indignant may better describe their emotional state during an hours-long floor fight in which the two parties pointed accusing fingers at one another.

“It’s called minority rule, and that’s the situation we’re in,” said Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks. “We’ve tried. We’ve done what we’ve done every session.” [...]

The capitulation is a further indication that Democrats will concede to Gov. Brian Sandoval, passing in large part his $6.6 billion state budget plan. Sandoval has proposed $120 million in additional funding for English-language learner programs, full-day kindergarten and other programs.

Democrats have argued the funding is not enough for a school system burdened with massive class sizes and poor graduation rates while undergoing $700 million in cuts through the recession.

But Republicans, led by Sandoval, refused to consider a tax increase this session. Sandoval, who faces re-election next year, contends the recovering economy will be enough to fund education services. And Republicans in the Legislature decided to back him.

Actually, the final paragraph above is not entirely true. After all, State Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) was peddling his IP 1/Education Initiative mining tax alternative. He just gave up on it when it became increasingly obvious that his alternative tax initiative had no chance in hell of passing.

So in turn, Roberson turned the screws on the Democratic leaders' tax plan. And to be fair, it wasn't all that difficult to do so, as the plan being cooked up by Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D-North Las Vegas) and Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis (D-North Las Vegas) was quickly devolving into a political labyrinth lacking in common sense policy. They were preparing to make a deal. But at this point, was that deal worth caving completely to Senator Roberson and other Republicans demanding (even) more concessions?

So now, we're back at Square One. We're back at "Gov Rec" and everyone's favorite silly Sunset Taxes. And we're back to our regularly scheduled chronic underfunding of our public infrastructure.

Of course, Governor "Magic Man" is hailing this as a huge victory. And yes, it's a major political victory for him. But for the people of this state, it's another in a very long string of policy FAILs. The most "juiced up" corporate special interests will continue paying just above nothing while We the People continue to suffer overcrowded & dilapidated schools, severely strained health care, transportation in disrepair, and more.

But at least this time, we can still hold onto the promise of a better tomorrow. Sure, it won't actually come tomorrow. But with The Education Initiative on next year's general election ballot, We the People will finally have the opportunity to do what the Governor and many legislators simply refuse to do. We the People will finally have the chance to begin fixing our anachronous, broken tax system while also mending our tattered social safety net. And frankly, it's long past time for We the People to carpe diem.

Things may look depressing in Carson City now. But just because the Governor is getting his cherished status quo now doesn't mean we must allow it to perpetuate next year. Legislators couldn't agree on a "carpe diem" in the Legislature Building this year, but that doesn't mean voters can't do so at the ballot box next year.

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