Things are already getting testy up north

Are tempers growing a bit short in Carson City?  And, if so, why so soon?  They’ve been there only for a couple of months.  The real trouble hasn’t even started yet.

Monday brought some snippiness.  The governor, Brian Sandoval, whom some are hailing as a rising political genius for how he has kept Republicans wedded to his “no new taxes” pledge, vetoed a bill that both houses of the legislature passed on a strict party line vote.  His message had some passages that played to the peanut gallery, so to speak.  The bill, AB 183, would take money that school districts keep in reserve for repaying school bonds and use some of it for school improvements — according to its supporters, thereby making schools better and providing some construction jobs.

Sandoval said no, which the governor undeniably has the right to do.  He even said, “The bill has merit:  A quality educational environment is important to the success of our students, and our state has far too many unemployed construction workers.”  But with all of Nevada’s myriad economic problems, he says, “In the face of such difficulty, we cannot afford to be parochial,” which is interesting, given that it’s unclear how the bill is parochial. He adds, “Instead, we must pursue policies that present the greatest chance of success to the greatest number of Nevadans,” which is what education traditionally is supposed to do.

His message says, “Improving the quality of instruction our children receive and fostering the success of workers across our economy are essential steps in moving the state forward.  Because this bill makes it harder to do these things, I will veto it.”  How does it make things harder?  By reducing the funds available for classroom instruction, meaning that Sandoval wants the reserve funds to try to hide his unwillingness to tax those who can afford it (hello, mining). Additionally, the stimulus package that helped the state over the past couple of years no longer will be available, thanks to his party’s effort to gut the federal budget almost as much as it is gutting state budgets like Nevada’s.  He accuses the bill’s backers — the entire Democratic party in the legislature, with the exception of one lawmaker who was absent — of “misleadingly” claiming voter support for their proposal.

If you want to appeal to your base for a future vice-presidential campaign and figure that your fellow Republicans in the legislature will stick with you through thick and thin, you attack the majority Democrats.  Will Sandoval’s tune change if rural Republicans being courted by State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, or some southern Nevada Republicans who suddenly remember that they are from Clark County, bail on him to save their own skins?  A political genius doesn’t pick a fight he doesn’t need to wage.

Michael Green professor of history at CSN.