Disgusted conservatives

Political pundit Jon Ralston recently wrote about conservative "disgust" over the budget deal, "as if there were some massive expansion of government that occurred." He went on: "I repeat the facts. In 2009, lawmakers approved a $6.9 billion general fund budget; in 2011, they approved a $6.2 billion general fund budget."

But that's not exactly the whole picture. You see, because of the worst recession in Nevada history, Gov. Brian Sandoval campaigned on a platform of rolling back general fund spending to the 2007 level, which was in the neighborhood of $5.2 billion.

And indeed, when the Economic Forum met last December, it projected tax revenue in the neighborhood of $5.3 billion, so we'd have been covered without raising taxes. But when the governor's actual budget was unveiled in January, we learned he had raided some local government piggy banks and proposed spending $5.8 billion instead.

Now fast-forward to May 2011: The Economic Forum met and determined that the state would be able to spend an additional $400 million thanks mostly to a mildly recovering economy. As such, the governor revised his budget proposal and beefed up general fund spending from $5.8 billion to $6.2 billion.

And then ... the Nevada Supreme Court dropped its last-minute stink bomb, ruling the governor had to give back $62 million the state had taken from a local water project fund.

Subsequently, the governor decided that the ruling *might* result in additional lawsuits which *might* have resulted in the court ultimately stripping a full $600 million from his proposed budget. So he chose to err on the side of caution and backed-out the full $600 million worth of raided local funds rather than just the $62 million.

Which was fine, and an arguably responsible thing to do. But once that call was made, the governor had two choices. He could break his unambiguous verbal commitments to the citizens of Nevada that he would not extend the $600 million worth of tax-hike "sunsets" ... or he could cut $600 million out of his revised $6.2 billion budget -- which included the $400 million in surplus spending he added just a couple weeks earlier.

Ultimately, the governor opted to raise taxes on Nevada's businesses and families by extending the $600 million worth of sunsets. And that's why conservatives ended up being "disgusted" with the budget deal.

You see, despite government being trimmed ever-so-slightly it could have and should have been shrunk so much more. The "disgust" is over what should have been had the governor kept his no-new-taxes promise.

But truth be told, saying that conservatives were "disgusted" with the deal isn't entirely accurate either. A better description would probably be "monumentally disappointed."

Ah, what might have been.

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach and publisher of NevadaNewsandViews.com. He may be reached at chuck@citizenoutreach.com.