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Read My Lips Roulette
Expanded from the 5-11-2008 Daily Sparks Tribune
Updated 5-18-2008

Under orders from his gambling overlords, Gov. Jim the Dim has backed away from his no new taxes pledge.

Instructions from the Las Vegas Strip can apparently blunt memories of the painful payback Bush the Elder suffered for breaking his "read my lips" pledge to the 1988 Republican national convention.

Sen. Ann O'Connell, R-Las Vegas, and Assemblyman Jason Geddes, R-Reno, would still be in office had they not voted for 2003 tax hikes.

Just the day before caving, Gov. Gibbons did a big dog and pony show appointing a chairman of his cosmetic version of the Grace Commission which he said will look for waste in state government to facilitate tax cuts when found.

His Republican predecessor, Gov. Dudley Do-Right, did the same thing and ended up signing the 2003 tax bill.

The federal Grace Commission (named for its chairman, the late mogul J. Peter Grace), was a flop that produced not much more than a fat book and a self-perpetuating right-wing corporate think tank.

When public officials appoint a high profile study commission, it's a sure sign that they are refusing to face a problem. There is only one place to make major cuts in this stingy state: the Public Employees Retirement System, which is exactly where the Gibbons front group will come down.

In 2003, lame duck Gov. Kenny Guinn proposed a "gross receipts tax" on all Nevada businesses. It was actually authored by the gambling industry which was so kind as to include a whopping property tax hike on thee and me.

I crunched the numbers with Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas. The grotesque receipts tax plan would have meant total additional exposure for the entire gambling industry of only about $6 million annually.

Sen. Neal and a few business lobbyists shoved it back and goosed the gamblers hard, in the process making more of the compensation of highly paid casino executives subject to federal income tax.

God, were they mad.

Turnabout was fair play. The gamblers did all they could to destroy Neal politically because of his long advocacy of an increase in the gross gaming tax.

The Nevada State Education Association turned its back on Neal in 1999 and is now circulating an initiative to do what Neal proposed a decade ago.

The gamblers are now in a full court press to stop the teachers, so don't believe all the PR about a slump in industry income.

The gamblers have in the past successfully committed creative accounting to understate true revenues, largely as a PR ploy to fight a looming tax hike. See Gambling industry continues to cook the books, the Barbwire of May 12, 2003.

The news media need to stop printing press releases and research such tales of woe. It is not easy, as calls to the gambling control apparat about revenues usually result in "that's classified" as a response. It makes one wonder just who is regulating whom.

How powerful are the gamblers? The late Dr. Judy Conger Calder supervised a biennial statewide poll at the UNR Alan Bible Center for Applied Research.

It consistently showed two of three Nevadans in favor of increasing gambling industry taxes.

Funding for the poll magically disappeared by 2003.

REWRITING HISTORY FOR FUN AND PROFIT. "The purpose of the room tax is to keep tourism going, to keep it alive and well and with the economy the way it is, taking money away from that, tourists are already trying to buckle down on their expenses and their budgets and a trip to Vegas might not be as appealing, especially if room rates are higher than other places that are closer to them. "

So quoth John Sande IV of Sen. Bill Raggio's, R-Reno, juice law firm. On Sam Shad's pundit panel last week, Sande discussed the possibility of a deal between the gamblers and teachers to raise room taxes instead of pursuing the teacher's initiative petition to raise gambling taxes. (Jim the Dim is just along for the ride.)

Young Mr. Sande is just wrong. The room tax was passed by the ledge in 1955 as the Fair and Recreation Board Act and the money was supposed to go to local fairs, parks and such. It has since been almost entirely perverted toward casino promotion.

I'll be on Shad's Nevada Newsmakers this Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4, re-running on Charter cable channel 3 at 9:30 p.m. throughout the region. The statewide schedule will be linked to this column.

ACTS OF GOD AND THE GOP. Ray Hagar at the Reno Gazette-Journal pointed out that in the print edition of last week's Barbwire, I termed Gomorrah South Sen. Bob Beers as both Democrat and Republican in the same sentence. (Only Hillary Clinton can perform that trick and make it stick.)

After the anti-Ron Paul debacle which my old friend Robert engineered while chairing the state Republican convention, I don't know that any political party wants to claim him. [UPDATE: A liberal Republican who attended told me that she took dark pleasure in seeing Beers chased out of his own convention by his own supporters.]

In my other brain-fade, I made Washoe County Commissioner Bonnie Weber a Clark County commissioner – a step up in pay and a geometric increase in power. [UPDATE: Her sister-in-law, Assemblymember Bonnie Weber, R-Las Vegas, has since filed for a seat on the Clark County Commission. Perhaps I was having a psychic moment. Perhaps not.]

I won't offer any of the usual excuses about typographical gremlins or deadline pressure. I proofed that piece at least half a dozen times and still blew it. So the only answer is one of biblical proportion: the errors were perpetuated because God willed it. So there.

AN EDDY ARNOLD MOTHERS DAY STORY. The mellow-voiced country crooner who played countless dates at John Ascuaga's Nugget was by reputation a gentleman, but everyone has limits.

Many years ago, Arnold was playing the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas.

Walking by the swimming pool one day, he was swarmed by autograph seekers. After awhile, he had to excuse himself.

As my old friend, former Sparks business owner John Hanks used to say, there is no sight more fearsome than a determined mother with an armful of kids.

One mom who did not make it to the head of the line shouted at him that he had to stick around because he owed it to his fans. He offered apologies but said he had another appointment. She still berated him, loudly.

Finally, he walked over and whispered in her ear: "Lady, I'm old, I'm rich and I don't have to give a damn."

Eddy Arnold died last week just a few days short of his 90th birthday.

Be well. Raise hell.

The Dean's List

   The Dean of Reno Bloggers could very well be Andrew Barbano, self-described "fighter of public demons," who started putting his "Barbwire" columns online in 1996 and now runs 10 sites.

      RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006


Copyright © 1982-2008 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan, editor of and; a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO; political action chair and webmaster of the Reno-Sparks NAACP; and producer of the annual César Chávez celebration. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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