Let’s learn from Gibbons’ mistakes

Hey everybody! Gibbons lost the primary election!

I know, by the time this goes to print, that is very old news indeed, but tonight it is the dominant thought in my mind. One of the downsides of writing a week out, I suppose.

I have to say, Nevada never ceases to keep things interesting. Just when I think things are pretty hopeless, something like this happens, holding out some vision of hope for the future. And, to be honest, the reverse can be true, as well. Just when things seem to be turning around in a positive direction, they can take a nose dive. Just never can tell, here in Nevada. Politics are about as changeable as the weather. Blandishments aside, even though I am quite satisfied with the primary results, I still think we should follow California’s lead and move to open primaries.

Gibbons never really seemed to have much invested in this election, and I can’t say that it’s a huge surprise that Brian Sandoval beat him out. Still, I do think that the election outcome complicates the conservative drumbeat of “no taxes at any cost.” There are plenty of other reasons for Nevadans to reject Gov. Gibbons, but the fact that “no taxes” was pretty much the only political platform he had, his loss at least suggests that we Nevadans are looking for more nuanced and sensible leadership.

As someone who has defended taxation as the cost of a civilized society several times in this column, I must say, I do like that spin on things.

At the same time, I also recognize that it doesn’t do to get too crazy about all of this. Nevadans are never going to be totally excited about widespread taxation. We simply need sensible fiscal leadership and a fiscal policy that will spread our revenue sources out more equitably—so that no single industry bears all the brunt of our infrastructure development—and ensure a more secure support for our schools, law enforcement, and other state institutions.

So, as we move toward the fall election, I’ll reiterate some points from my earlier columns about possible “low-hanging fruit” to look for as Rory Reid and Brian Sandoval gear up their campaign messages:

One, Nevada needs to seriously address the question of tax breaks, a system that keeps untold millions of dollars out of our state coffers. We don’t track them, so we can’t even have an educated debate about whether these breaks are good for business or fulfill their intended purpose. We need to begin identifying and accounting for all of these expenditures and evaluate them.

Second, our next governor needs to have the leadership skills to work with the legislature to overhaul our state tax system. This will be difficult, and, as I understand it, take two legislative sessions, so it is critical that the governor be committed to this transformation to take Nevada into the next century.

I also think Nevada should consider adopting the citizen’s assembly for budgetary disputes. This is an idea that I wrote about last July in which budget disputes at the state level are resolved by a citizen’s assembly which votes on various budget proposals. The assembly exists in a variety of communities around the world and would circumvent the kind of budgetary antics we’ve seen in the past and that plague California, as well. The assembly provides the opportunity for meaningful and responsible citizen engagement in policy, creates incentives for moderate, middle-of-the-road fiscal legislation, and frees legislators up to handle other business during the biennial session.

Oh yeah, and did I mention the part about the open primary?