It’s easy for elected officials to pay lip service to how well they’re doing and talk about their achievements but, just as in school, report cards show the world what actually happened. To that end, the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) has just released its 2015 Legislative Review & Report Card, which includes a narrative overview of the session and scores every lawmaker on how friendly they were to taxpayers.
During campaign season, nearly every Republican candidate sounded the same. Gov. Brian Sandoval told voters that he wanted to “keep taxes low” and many Assembly and Senate Republican candidates even promised to oppose extending the “sunset” taxes, a package of $600 million in taxes that was set to expire.
With Republicans sweeping to power in the 2014 elections, taxpayers should have been able to expect a session of low taxes and free market reforms in education, labor and pension policies.
However, once politicians were safely elected, taxpayers found out that many of those promises were hollow. The state ended up facing the largest tax increase in Nevada history. Sen. Majority Leader Michael Roberson helped move the governor’s tax package through the legislature despite telling voters he was the only candidate in his primary election to fight for “tax cuts.”
Four months after the session started, Sandoval had passed that $1.4 billion tax increase, including a modified version of the margin tax that voters had rejected six months earlier by a 4-to-1 ratio.
As a result, only 20 lawmakers earned scores generally favorable to taxpayers on NPRI’s Report Card. Modeled after the National Taxpayers Union scorecard, NPRI’s is based on over 80 floor votes on bills and amendments.
The top four scores all belong to Assemblywomen — the only four lawmakers to score over 90 percent. Dr. Robin Titus earned the distinction of “Taxpayer’s Best Friend” with a score of 93.17 percent. Shelly Shelton, Michele Fiore and Jill Dickman were the other Assemblywomen who also scored high for Nevadans. In the upper chamber, Sen. Don Gustavson earned the highest score with 86.2 percent.
A review of all the scores shows two interesting trends.
First, the 25 Democrats in the Legislature scored between 11.8 percent and 17.03 percent. This indicates that voters supporting Democrats can have a high degree of confidence that the Democrat will support higher taxes while opposing significant education, labor and pension reforms.
In contrast, scores for the 36 Republicans ranged from 38.72 percent to 93.17 percent. Clearly, just voting for someone on a ballot with an “R” beside his or her name doesn’t ensure they will defend taxpayers or embrace education, labor and pension reforms. NPRI’s Report Card clearly differentiates those who walk the walk from those who just talk the talk.
Second, the Republican Senate and Assembly leaders had some of the lowest scores in their caucuses. Sen. Majority Leader Michael Roberson and five other Republican Senators, Greg Brower, Patricia Farley, Joe Hardy, Becky Harris and Ben Kieckhefer each scored 38.72 percent. The Senate Republican caucus, though, averaged 49.77 percent.
Assembly Speaker John Hambrick and Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson each scored 43.79 percent. The Assembly Republican caucus, however, averaged 65.37 percent.
Sandoval also scored low, earning a score of 43.48 percent.
Because almost no voter has the time to follow and track the hundreds of bills considered by the Legislature and the thousands of vote cast during the session, NPRI’s Report Card is an invaluable tool in determining how lawmakers voted.
Victor Joecks is executive vice president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank.