In 2009, the Nevada Legislature passed a series of "temporary" tax hikes totaling in excess of $600 million. The people of Nevada were promised that those tax hikes would expire, or sunset, in two years. Instead, the legislature extended those tax hikes for an additional two years in 2011 and 2013.
In 2014, the teachers union put a new gross receipts tax on the ballot. Gov. Brian Sandoval and every Republican legislative candidate campaigned aggressively against it, and almost 80 percent of voters rejected it on Election Day.
But during the recently concluded legislative session, Sandoval and the Republican-controlled legislature said they didn't care what the people were promised about the "sunsets" or what the people declared loudly and clearly about the gross receipts tax in November.
They knew better.
As such, they concocted the largest tax increase in Nevada's history (SB483) — over $1 billion— including making permanent those temporary tax hikes from 2009 and a new gross receipts tax very similar to the one overwhelmingly rejected by voters in November.
In response, more than 800 Nevada citizens have filed a referendum to put the $1 billion-plus tax hike on the 2016 ballot for a possible veto by the people of Nevada.
The We Decide Coalition will need to overcome the inevitable court challenges and gather roughly 55,000 signatures to qualify it for the ballot by June.
Sandoval greeted the filing of the referendum with sound and fury.
"How dare you? Don't you know these tax hikes are for the children? Don't you know that over 70 percent of legislators voted for this giga-tax hike?"
Yeah, um, about that.
The number of legislators who voted for the largest tax hike in Nevada history, including the news gross receipts tax, was 48. The number of Nevadans who voted against the gross receipts tax last November was 429,324.
So, taxpayers are supposed to suck it up and accept a billion-dollar tax hike because 48 bought-and-paid-for legislators and the governor think they know better than 429,324 voters? I don't think so.
In his fit of pique, issued in a written statement so that no one could question him, Sandoval demanded to know what those seeking the tax hike repeal would cut from the budget.
This is a tired, old liberal tactic that won't work in this case because State Controller Ron Knecht and a number of conservative lawmakers proposed budget alternatives during the session that would have funded the budget without raising a dime in taxes. But Sandoval refused to give those alternatives even token consideration.
It's time for these elected elites to stop using Nevadans as ATM machines. And if this referendum makes it to the ballot, we, the people, will have the final word. As we should.
Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grass roots advocacy organization. He can be reached at www.muthstruths.com.