Published Tuesday, March 13, 2012 | 8:25 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, March 13, 2012 | 10:12 a.m.
Anti-tax organizer Grover Norquist reportedly called Gov. Brian Sandoval “a rat” for extending a 2009 tax increase that he had promised to let sunset, according to an account of a conservative gathering in New York by the online news site BuzzFeed.
Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and creator of the pledge not to raise taxes, also “dismissed the notion” that Sandoval could be a viable GOP running mate.
Sandoval, who did not sign the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, promised repeatedly on the campaign trail that he would not extend the 2009 state tax increase to cover a significant budget shortfall last year.
His original proposed budget allowed the tax increases to expire. But when the Nevada Supreme Court issued a ruling that threw into question the state’s use of more than $650 million in local government funds to fill the budget gap.
Sandoval then reversed his position, brokering a deal with lawmakers to temporarily extend the tax increase through the end of fiscal year 2013.
Reached by email, Norquist deflected a direct question on whether he labeled Sandoval “a rat.”
“I said he was the only Republican governor who raised taxes in 2011. Only five states raised taxes,” Norquist said in the email. “He was (a) poster child for why a written pledge is important. Sandoval said he wouldn’t raise taxes but did.”
At the time, several conservative lawmakers decried Sandoval’s decision, saying the court ruling applied only to the $62 million from the Clean Water Coalition and not the rest of the local government money. While 12 conservative lawmakers voted against the budget, Sandoval was largely able to quell any damaging political backlash from conservative activists.
Sandoval remains deeply popular with Nevada voters.
But Norquist has proven an influential voice on the issue of taxes, bringing a mostly black-and-white view to efforts to raise government revenue.
One of Norquist’s favorite invectives against Republicans he believes violate conservative fiscal principals is “rat head in a coke bottle.”UPDATE: In a follow up email, Norquist said he doesn't believe he called Sandoval a rat and described his comments as a "fleeting reference on his tax hike."