Thursday, April 03, 2003

Meanwhile, back at the Legislature ...

Kenny Guinn's "temporary tax hike" is dead. Caput. Finito. Legislative committee heads refused to subject Guinn's proposals to a vote, citing a lack of support. Rumor has it the gross receipts tax is going nowhere as well. Other tax plans are in jeopardy, as no proposal is getting the two-thirds support from lawmakers in both houses required for passage.

Of course, the Legislature is in session for two more months, so anything can happen. But if I dare go out on a limb, the reaction of lawmakers to date should be heartening -- and not just for anti-tax cranks like me. The reluctance of legislators to be pushed around by Guinn (and the casino bosses and public employees who lead him around) may suggest that Nevada is growing up, becoming a real state -- one in which decisions are made through a deliberative process, not in the proverbial smoke-filled room.

This somewhat surprising resistance to tax hikes also suggests that it's indeed difficult to cast aside 135 years of political tradition and culture overnight. From its inception, Nevada has prided itself on being a lightly governed, minimally taxed state that offers residents few government benefits. The Silver State has typically told would-be migrants to expect to make it on their own. If you want to live in a welfare state, move to Massachusetts ... or California. Voters have amended the state constitution in recent years, imposing the two-thirds supermajority requirement for tax increases and mandating that the Legislature shall meet for no more than 120 days every other year. Seems there's little stomach for big government here.

A further populist backlash against the state's political elite may be brewing as well. Assemblyman Bob Beers (looking more gubernatorial by the day) may champion a constitutional referendum which would emulate Colorado, and subject to a popular vote tax hikes and state budgets that grow faster than population and inflation. Stay tuned.

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