Liberal heads were exploding all over the state after Republican Greg Brower, the man tapped by the Washoe County Commission to replace Republican Sen. Bill Raggio - who was a lock to vote to raise taxes and fees this upcoming legislative session - pledged support for Gov. Brian Sandoval and vowed not to vote to raise taxes or fees.
"This is not the time to raise taxes," the former state assemblyman told commissioners before they chose him as Raggio's replacement in Reno's Senate District 3. "We must do the best we can to balance the budget with the revenue we have."
He reaffirmed his position later, telling reporters that "he agrees with Gov. Brian Sandoval that the budget should be balanced without raising taxes," and that with unemployment at a record high, "Now is not the time to increase the tax burden on Nevadans."
So this guy must be one of those wild-eyed, no-new-taxes, tea party extremists we've heard so much about, right? Wrong.
As a two-term Republican assemblyman back at the turn of the century, Brower was known as a pragmatic moderate. So it must be driving the left and Raggio Republicans nuts to see moderates such as Brower and Sandoval talking like hard-core right-wingers such as Chuck Muth and Grover Norquist.
Brower's pronouncements also would appear to take tax hikes in the 2011 session completely off the table. Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford needs three GOP votes to get the 2⁄3 super-majority necessary to raise taxes or fees. With Raggio likely came the votes of Sens. Dean Rhoads, Ben Kieckhefer and Joe Hardy. Without Raggio and without Brower, however, Horsford might now be able to only count on Rhoads, at best.
But you never know.
Sen. Brower has taken tax hikes off the table. GOP Sens. Barbara Cegavske, Elizabeth Halseth, Don Gustavson and Michael Roberson have also taken tax hikes off the table by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. However, in addition to Sens. Rhoads, Kieckhefer and Hardy, we don't yet have a firm, no tax- or fee-hike commitment from Minority Leader Mike McGinness or Sen. James Settelmeyer.
Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
That every Republican legislator isn't publicly full onboard in support of Gov. Sandoval on this issue is embarrassing. Are any of them really going to vote for higher taxes against the wishes of the Republican governor who ran on this issue and position and was elected by an overwhelming majority of Nevada voters? And are any of them really going to then vote to override Gov. Sandoval's veto?
Seriously, somebody needs to get these GOP legislators with the program! And remember, "no" is not a four-letter word.
• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy grassroots advocacy organization. He may be reached at chuck@citizen