Chuck Muth: Sandoval already had his mind made up on tax increase

Wait. Are you kidding me?

Anjeanette Damon of the Las Vegas Sun recently obtained emails showing that a troika of lobbyists/power-brokers overruled Gov. Brian Sandoval’s (R&R-Partners) senior staff on one of the governor’s numerous betrayals of his “no tax hikes” pledge. This outrageous story shows that not only are Sandoval’s promises empty, so is his suit.

At issue is what has become known as the “More Cops” tax increase for Clark County. Voters approved half the hike in 2004, when Nevada still was in times of plenty. Indeed, recall that in 2005 tax revenues had come in so much higher than expected from the 2003 Mother of All Tax Hikes that then-Gov. Kenny Guinn actually issued tax rebates.

The deal in 2004 was that the second half of that tax hike had to be approved by the 2013 Legislature. Clearly, economic circumstances have changed dramatically since 2004 and there’s no way on God’s green earth such a tax hike would have been approved today if it came before voters.

And yet, Gov. Sandoval, despite his oft-repeated verbal assurances that he would oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes, ended up not only supporting this totally uncalled-for tax hike, but ultimately called a special session of the Legislature to get it approved.

Over the objections, we now find out, of his chief of staff and chief policy adviser.

Why? Because two lobbyists — Pete Ernaut and Greg Ferraro — and a political apparatchik, Mike Slanker, overruled them, that’s why.

But don’t worry, it gets worse.

According to the story, the email exchange shows Ernaut argued in favor of the governor breaking his “no tax hikes” pledge because “the police union … was one of the only public employee unions to support the governor in his last election …” In other words, a political payback.

Hang on. We haven’t got to the punchline yet.

“At the time,” Damon reports, “Sandoval’s senior staff did not know that Ernaut, president of government affairs at R&R Partners, was a paid lobbyist for the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, the labor association for rank-and-file police, which would benefit from more money to hire police officers.”

Holy lack of disclosure, Batman! But there’s still more …

Reportedly, the email exchange in question wasn’t really about whether Sandoval should support the tax hike.

Apparently the governor had already committed, unbeknownst to his staff, to break his word and back the increase.

No, “Sandoval’s top campaign consultant Mike Slanker” was simply trying to figure out how to spin breaking the governor’s word to the news media and the public.

Of R&R Partners, by R&R Partners, for R&R Partners. It’s the Nevada Way. And a shameful indictment of a governor who’s proved to be all sizzle and no steak.

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization. He can be reached at


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