Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Deep Hole in Carson City

We've seen this so many times before. Gun safety reform fell because of it. Comprehensive immigration reform is now on shaky ground due to it. And of course, austerity and manufactured crises are all the rage on Capitol Hill thanks to it. Thanks to "tea party" obstructionism, it's incredibly difficult to pass anything in Congress now.

Yet like our new state slogan, Nevada seems to be "A World Away, A State Apart". After all, several Republican legislators in Carson City have come forward and offered to break the logjam on tax policy. In fact, some "tea party" faithful there are frustrated.

[Assembly Member Jim] Wheeler [R-Gardnerville] admits he’s in the minority in Carson City. He laments what he sees as the leftward shift of the Republican Party in response to recent trouncing at the polls.

“Republicans seem to be trying to come to the middle,” Wheeler said. “But people won’t vote for that. People don’t vote for a party that changes its ways. People vote the person who sticks to what they say.

“Now, we have to cater to minorities? Cater to gay marriage? Because the world is changing? That’s true. But American values are not changing.”

No, American values are not changing. However, our understanding of those values clearly has. And funny enough, a Republican has stepped forward to confirm this.

“I try to do what is best for the state of Nevada,” Kieckhefer said on Nevada Newsmakers Thursday morning. “I don’t try to pander to a party of a part or edge of a party.”

Kieckhefer defended his marriage equality vote as a vote “of my conscience.” [...]

“I have a strongly Republican district but there are a lot of families in the district and it may not be as conservative as you are painting it to be,” Kieckhefer said. “It is a strong Republican district but with the bandwidth of conservatism. I’m not sure that it’s the most conservative district in the state.”

State Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) has been making news lately for staking positions (like support for marriage equality) that challenge contemporary G-O-TEA orthodoxy. But then again, that's just it. G-O-TEA orthodoxy is still quite powerful. (And Richard Ziser is threatening to primary Senator Kieckhefer.)

After all, look at the "TEA" fueled revolt against Senator Michael Roberson's (R-Henderson) IP 1 alternative mining tax. And remember, he proposed it to try to fend off IP 1/The Education Initiative! But now, he can't even get the Governor and Assembly Caucus from his own party to consider his plan.

And then, there's Governor Brian Sandoval (R). He offered another serving of "The Sunset Taxes" to fend off any and all kind of serious tax reform (even Senator Roberson's). Yet even with that, the "tea party" balks.

And then, there's the scope of Nevada's tattered public infrastructure. We're facing law suits over chronic underfunding of K-12 public education and mental health care. And that's only just the beginning of the consequences we're starting to feel for not setting up a proper social safety net so we can truly care for our own. Sandoval's "Sunset Solution" only essentially drops a few extra pennies in that deep bucket. And while Roberson's proposal offers more, it's legally questionable and mired in troublesome "triangulation" politics.

So may we finally seeing some Republicans break free from "G-O-TEA" orthodoxy? Perhaps so. That's why the state may be able to pass a workable budget in June while Congress is still stuck in a stalemate. Yet with that being said, Nevada's fiscal and social problems run far deeper than a few extra million dollars that Governor Sandoval wants to toss into the state budget. We still have a very deep hole to crawl out of. The hole in Carson City may not seem as scary as the one in Washington, yet it nonetheless causes us trouble.

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