In last week’s column, I recounted the contribution I made in 2003 as an Assemblyman to Nevada political lore.  I made a joke proposal to change the name of Nevada to East California and make the RINO (Republican in name only) the state animal.

I did so because then-governor Kenny Guinn surprised many people after his reelection by proposing a gross receipts tax (GRT).  A GRT had long been a dream of the gaming and resorts industry because it is structured to shield the state’s most powerful industry from any future tax increases and assure that families and other businesses pay those tax increases.

Democrats and public employees have an endless appetite for ever more taxes to fund their hobby-horses and increase their pay.  Nevada gaming taxes were the lowest of any state with a substantial gaming industry, and they had long looked lustfully at tapping for themselves those revenues via gaming tax increases.

Also, public employees had used their friends in the culinary unions, which represent most employees of gaming and resorts, to pressure the industry to lean on legislators whose campaigns they fund to allow unionization of local-government employees.  The culinary unions raised much hell for the industry, which then caved in to local-government unionization and sky-rocketing local taxes.

So, the industry wanted to make a cosmic deal with the majority Democrats and the local-government unions (teachers, police and fire).  The deal was: Gaming would support nearly any foolish thing the Democrats and unions wanted so long as the industry did not have to foot the bill.  As so often happens in politics, predatory special interests collude to get what they want at the expense of you and me and the public interest.

Because the Democrats also carry water for the culinary unions, the deal would help the industry counter-balance the legislative attacks their employees might mount against them.  RINOs, plus their cynical political consultants and fundraisers joined the plot to assure they’d continue to get funding from the industry, too.

Assembly Republicans included the “Mean 15”, the reliable limited-government conservatives.  We stopped the very destructive GRT and the deal.  But the Democrats, RINOS and special interests pushed through other large tax increases.  Of course, in the process, the tax-and-spend predators cloaked their real selfish desires with the usual rhetoric about school funding, doing it for the children, progress, etc.

Because I had raised a surprisingly effective hubbub with my joke, they were quite upset and they successfully hard-targeted me in the next election.

With large spending and tax increases, more regulation and other intervention, the Democrats, RINOs and unions continued their march toward turning Nevada into East California.  And in 2015, with governor Brian Sandoval and other RINOs, plus the same set of cynical political consultants and fundraisers working with the Democrats and for the industry, they successfully executed the game plan that failed a dozen years earlier.  They passed the commerce tax, a diabolically sinister version of the simple GRT (as I’ll explain another day).

If you doubt we’re becoming East California, consider this.  In the last dozen years the state spending burden on Nevada families and businesses grew 16 percent in real terms, while their incomes declined six percent.  The special interests beat the public interest and the people.

What can we expect in coming years?

Well, California is becoming ever more a ruined paradise.  Hard-drug needles, urine, feces, debris and hazardous waste on streets and sidewalks of large cities.  Rodents spreading plague, typhus and other diseases.  Endless homeless encampments in so many previously attractive public spaces.  Increasing thefts and assault, mental illness, substance abuse and incarceration.

Mostly due to the progressive governance the Democrats, unions and RINOs want to bring to Nevada.

Young people fleeing ridiculous housing prices and shortages caused by asinine building and zoning codes, environmental mandates, rent control and labor regulations.  Older conservatives fleeing the stench, high taxes, political correctness and badgering of the nanny state.

And aggressive, self-righteous demands by state government officials for Washington to bail them out of the messes they created.

But not California’s warm winters in the north or ocean-front property.  Well, at least we can ban plastic shopping bags and straws.

Ron Knecht has served Nevada as state controller, a higher education regent, college instructor, state legislator and economist.  Contact him at RonKnecht@aol.com.