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Premature election?

Assembly Speaker John Hambrick has voted for exactly the same number of taxes as his would-be replacement in the Legislature, Jim Marchant: zero.

So isn’t the ongoing campaign to recall Hambrick from office (and, potentially, replace him with Marchant) a bit premature?

Proponents say no, because Hambrick has indicated he’s willing to break the no-tax pledge that he signed back in 2010. He told me that if Republicans could pass merit pay for teachers, a school voucher law and Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Read by 3 initiative, he’d vote for the taxes necessary to pay for school reforms.

“If we can get all that, I’ll take the hit on the tax pledge,” he said.

But that’s still a big “if.” And Hambrick is a long way from pushing the green button on taxes.

Yet to read literature attacking Hambrick and promoting Marchant, uncovered by my colleague Jon Ralston, the timing doesn’t really matter; the mere fact that Hambrick has indicated a willingness to abandon his no-tax pledge is apostasy enough to put him on the political rack.

“When our elected officials mis-speak, or mis-remember, or mis-represent, WE MIS-VOTE!” one of the fliers declares. (Perhaps that meant to say, “we mis-voted,” given that the vote took place more distant in time than the mis-speaking, mis-remembering and/or mis-representing?)

The flier tells voters that Hambrick now “…supports the governor’s $1.2 BILLION [emphasis in original] proposed tax increases for our families and businesses,” although it fails to mention the conditions Hambrick placed on such support. But wait, there’s more.

“John Hambrick, as Assembly Speaker Designate [sic], purged fiscally responsible Assemblypersons [sic] who vocally oppose tax increases from the Taxation Committee to make bills raising taxes easier to enact,” the flier reads. And yes, Hambrick did remove Assemblywomen Michele Fiore and Victoria Seaman from the Taxation Committee. But that act doesn’t make taxes any easier or harder to enact; any tax bill must still gain a two-thirds supermajority to pass, and Fiore and Seaman will still be on the floor to cast their votes, as well as to advocate publicly and privately for their anti-tax stance.

(Perhaps the authors meant to say that Fiore’s removal as chairwoman of the Taxation Committee would make it harder for a tax bill to pass, since she’d never bring up such a bill for a vote in that committee, and committee chairs have wide discretion in the Legislature to control the flow of bills. But the flier fails to mention another reason why Fiore was removed from the post: The fact that she owes a hefty chunk of change to the IRS in past unpaid tax liens.)

“John Hambrick betrayed the Public Trust [sic] by making false promises and commitments to get elected,” the flier concludes. “When John Hambrick stopped listening to us, his constituents, he began ruling, not governing.”

Or did he? A new Terrance Group poll released just today finds that 67 percent of voters say current public education funding is “not enough,” with another 17 percent calling it the “right amount” and just 12 percent saying it’s “more than enough.” (Thanks for participating, NPRI!)

And 56 percent say they support Sandoval’s tax proposal, as Hambrick has done. Another 41 percent oppose it.

Oh, by the way, a whopping 81 percent support Read by 3 and 70 percent back merit pay, two of the three conditions that Hambrick placed on his vote to increase taxes. So far from being out of the mainstream, Hambrick’s views seem quite in line with majority opinion.

But that’s not the issue here, is it? The issue here is that Hambrick has decided to repudiate his signing of the tax pledge, which proponents regard with near religious veneration. When it’s pointed out that Hambrick signed the pledge five years ago (as the state was emerging from a recession and the economy was much weaker), tax pledgers reply that other commitments carry no such expiration dates. Do one’s marriage vows expire?, they ask.

Yes, because the tax pledge is the same thing as one of the seven sacraments of the church. Just ask any parish priest!

Marchant’s literature declares boldly that “Raising taxes is not the only solution,” but fails to identify what Marchant believes are the other solutions. But he declares proudly that “I will fight against all efforts to raise taxes on Nevada families and businesses” and that “I will promote fiscal responsibility [as opposed to those who pledge to spend recklessly], balanced budgets [which are required by the constitution] and zero-based budgeting [always an efficient way to spend the 120 days of a legislative session].”

It may as well read: If you’re satisfied with the way Nevada’s schools are now (and that Terrance Group polls says just 19 percent say they’re “excellent or good,” versus 39 percent each who say they’re either “fair” or “poor”) then Marchant can virtually guarantee you will get more of the same! Admittedly, that’s somewhat less inspiring than the tea party favorites, but it does have the virtue of being accurate.

The upshot: “When our representatives stop listening to us, we are being ruled, not governed,” Marchant’s flier declares.

Um, no, actually. It’s when your representatives aren’t elected at all that you’re being ruled, not governed. The very fact that you’re trying to unseat Hambrick and get elected yourself via the democratic process is evidence that our government is working exactly as described in the constitution. Too bad that undercuts your slogan.

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