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Momentum seems uncertain in Carson City

There’s a lot to be said for momentum. But deciding between momentum and hype can be tricky.

Kentucky’s basketball team would seem to have momentum. Hillary Clinton would like us to believe she has it, a strategy that didn’t quite work out for her eight years ago.

The biennial political circus on display in Carson City is knee deep in people trying to convince the state they have the slippery mantle of momentum.

It starts, of course, with Gov. Brian Sandoval who brought a cadre of former governors and experts to support him when he presented his record-setting tax increase plan. An alphabet soup of business organizations staged a mass display to create the illusion of unity behind the plan. Sen. Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) has been trying to speed up the bandwagon’s roll by promising to have a bill passed through the Senate by the end of March, although he’s now revised that to early April.

Either way, all the theatrics are geared to making it appear the governor’s plan is the anointed one. The implication: Wavering Assembly members had better get aboard before it’s too late.

But a quick look around shows some potentially serious impediments.

For one, there’s Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R-Las Vegas), who says she has the votes to kill any tax increase. That leaves us to ponder a) whether she can count; b) if she too is trying to create momentum to sway wavering votes; and c) what her political legacy would be as the tax slayer who sunk education reform.

Then there’s the odd case of John Hambrick. The Las Vegas Republican won a messy intraparty fight to become Assembly speaker, a win he may regret soon if he doesn’t already. His moderate stance on even discussing the possibility of a tax increase made him the target of a recall. Now he’s one of three Assembly leaders to offer an alternative to the Republican governor’s plan. In some states, that would be tantamount to treason.

The alternative plan recognizes the howl about Sandoval’s plan to double business license fees on the smallest businesses and instead boosts the modified business tax from 1.17 to 1.56 percent. It also recognizes that one of the recurring problems is that too few businesses are paying anything. By lowering the threshold on the modified business tax to those with more than $200,000 a year in payroll, it asks more mid-sized businesses to pay their share.

Clearly a lot of thought went into both the political and mathematic balancing of this rival plan. It’s the product of good thoughtful men trying to do the right thing. These are three Southern Nevadans going out on a limb in their first and perhaps their only run as leaders of the majority party. They are daring to improve on the massive $1.1 billion tax increase proposed by the popular governor by offering a plan that would raise $62 million more than Sandoval asked.

Now, we haven’t even gotten to the real fun of carving up this vast new pot of gold, but Southern Nevada REALLY wants the proposed UNLV Medical School. It’s seen as an economic engine as well as the solution to another perceived weakness in Las Vegas’ appeal – lagging health care. Sandoval’s plan calls for $9 million for the med school; UNLV asked for $27 million. Perhaps having some spare change leftover might bridge the divide.

These three have no momentum today but they occupy an interesting piece of political real estate – directly between the Sandoval bandwagon and those who would derail it in the name of conservative orthodoxy and adjacent to the wish list of minority Democrats, whose votes will be crucial to any successful resolution.

Location. Location. Location.

Is it enough to top momentum?

It’s going to be fun watching these next few weeks. Now if the sports books could take bets on the outcome, we could keep March Madness alive into June.

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