Beware the Ides of March. Julius Caesar ignored that warning and we know what happened to him. Caesar was honored like a god, but was done in by his colleagues in the Roman Senate. This March, Carson City’s tax wars are heating up. No one is in physical danger, but political lives could be in peril. Strong emotions will collide. Fortunately, the Legislature’s two men on point may be the perfect antidote to the forces of rage and anger.
Calm and evenhanded men, tax committee Chairmen Senator Mike McGinness and Assemblyman David Parks are uniquely different individuals. But their approaches to public office and to building legislation are similar in ways that will prove crucial to building a tax plan that can succeed. These men are not ambitious in Caesar’s mold. They are moderate, unpretentious leaders.
Nevada’s most renowned tax expert, Carole Vilardo, president of Nevada Taxpayers Association, observed that building a tax bill is a “deliberative process” and that, “Everyone will get a fair shake, regardless of his or her viewpoint, from each of these [chairmen].”
Senator McGinness acknowledges there is a similarity in styles. Over the past two years, he served on a legislative committee chaired by Parks. Drawing on that experience, McGinness observed Assemblyman Parks’ approach is, “similar to mine. He keeps meetings moving, doesn’t let personal feelings interfere with his conduct of the meeting, remains dispassionate. We both feel the pressure to move on, to bring issues to conclusion. But people need their full say, and we both respect that.”
Both men came to the Legislature as a result of circumstance more than ambition; both were accidental candidates. McGinness worked at Fallon’s local radio station, KVLV. In that role he did his share of “on air” time broadcasting local events, served as master of ceremonies at others and headed the local Chamber of Commerce. When a resignation created a local school board vacancy, he was asked to take an appointment to fill out the term. Eventually, McGinness replaced Virgil Ghetto in the Assembly and later the state Senate.
Similarly, Parks fell into elected office. “It was never a personal goal of mine. When Larry Spitler decided at the last minute not to run again, I was asked to consider it. This was never on my radar screen. I told [party leaders] I’d go for one term, just to help them out.”
Both Parks and McGinness have faced the reality that being out on point during this historic tax session could end their careers in elected office. Both take an, “I’ll do my job” approach. Neither sees this as his life.
Being Nevada’s only openly gay legislator, Parks says, “I thought [one term] would be it.” He is realizes that presiding over this battle could end his career. “I never expected to go past that first term; I have no ambition to stay forever.” McGinness asked himself, “Am I willing to risk not being reelected to do the right thing?” He reasoned, “Everyone in the Legislature is in public service. We are all are here to serve our local people. But this is only temporary.”
Both men steadfastly reserve their right to take independent positions on behalf of their district. McGinness’ rural constituents are suffering under a weak economy. “Taxpayers are willing to do what’s right, but many are so stressed they can hardly afford the amounts of money being suggested,” he stated.
Parks said, “About two-thirds of my home voters are retired or hourly wage earners. As their assemblyman, I need to make sure we fairly spread the burden. All citizens as individuals pay property and sales taxes, but some entities pay next to nothing as businesses or groups. On that level, I’ll fight for my district’s residents.”