Sunday, May 26, 2013 | 2:02 a.m.
State Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis last week pulled a tax proposal that would have raised money for education. In an emotional speech, Denis said the plan didn’t have the support to pass.
“We are failing our children, kicking the can down the road,” the Democrat said. “Once again, we have put our partisanship over policies that can help today.”
When Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson took the floor, he expressed his affection for Denis but then criticized him and his party for a lack of leadership.
“People outside this building and throughout this state know who has led and who hasn’t led,” he said. “This is not leadership. This is making yourself feel better.”
That set off a back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans about leadership and who’s really to blame for the lack of movement on key issues such as taxes and education. And then the floor session ended.
It was a picture of what has happened in Carson City this year on big issues — nothing.
As Anjeanette Damon and Andrew Doughman reported in the Sun, Nevada saw $700 million in education cuts through the recession. Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget puts back $120 million.
Democrats have called for more spending to restore funding, but to do that, they would have to raise revenue. Thus the Democrats’ plan. But Sandoval has pledged to veto any new tax and has waged a campaign calling for improving education without tax increases.
Sandoval’s opposition has made it more difficult to garner bipartisan support in the Legislature for a tax plan, not that there has been much support to begin with. The tax proposals the Democrats floated in the Legislature this year were blocked by the Republicans, and the Republican plans were blocked by the Democrats. Cue the finger pointing.
The Democrats have the majority in both the Assembly and the Senate, but it takes two-thirds to pass a tax plan. Thus, the Republican minority has control. And when no one can compromise, the result is political inertia.
So is there a lack of leadership? Obviously, yes.
Democrats and Republicans can say they tried, and some lawmakers truly did try to find ways to make things happen. But the outcome speaks to what happened — there haven’t been enough people willing to take the political risks or cut the needed deals. Thus, nothing happened, and once again, Nevadans get the same results.
What’s more troubling is that Nevadans have been so complacent about this and haven’t been willing to hold leaders accountable for their lack of action. Clark County has nearly three-quarters of the state’s population, yet it doesn’t see a proportional amount of government spending; power brokers have long shuttled money away to the north. We’re surprised we don’t see more Southern Nevadans outraged over such inequity. They should be outraged, and they should be pushing elected leaders to act.
Unfortunately, too many people accept the status quo and the rhetoric that supports it, and Nevada suffers with low-performing schools and paltry services that don’t help the people or the economy.
As we have noted before, Southern Nevada is the engine that fuels the state, yet it has been drained. The state can’t wait for another two years to prime the engine.
At this point, the governor needs to step in and provide the leadership needed to make a real impact this session. There’s no doubt the state’s antiquated tax system is broken and inequitable. It’s past time to fix it and give the state’s education system the real boost it needs, not the token offers that he has put forth. And, it shouldn’t be hard to do — the state has years of studies to refer to.
To do that, he’ll have to put down the stale rhetoric about no new taxes and potential harm a tax might do to the economy. Remember the reviled tax increase in 2003, the largest in state history at that time? It didn’t hurt the economy. Instead, the economy boomed.
And if Sandoval wants to win the hearts of voters in Southern Nevada, he needs to fix the inequities in the unconscionable way state and federal money is distributed.
Those types of actions may not make him or lawmakers popular with those who love the status quo, but it will make them heroes in the minds of real Nevadans who want to see a better future for our children.