“Don’t tax me, don’t tax thee, tax the man behind the tree!”
–Sen. Russell B. Long
The legendary Louisiana U.S. Senator was an influential member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee. Uttering what now has become the most famous of reluctant taxpayer refrains, old Russ said something every politician who wants to “reform” the tax system has heard from his or her voters:
“Go ahead and find some more revenue. Just make sure somebody other than me, my company, or my friends are the ones who pay for it.”
It is for those reasons that virtually every lawmaker and major lobbyist attends the big Nevada Taxpayers Association biennial dinner at the Carson City Nugget. They want to find out ‘who’ that guy behind the tree really is. And if they should spot him, will he maybe not mind being taxed when he’s not looking?
Many lawmakers go to the dinner to be seen. The more ambitious go to be seen and heard. But most go to be seen and not heard. It’s far too early to say whether they will or won’t agree to do what the old Bayou politician was talking about.
And all legislators go… in order to have a nice meal. It’s one of the few events that actually involve a sit-down dinner, whereas most early session receptions dish up little more than stale pot stickers and some kind of garlic-tomato-basil concoction on dry sourdough.
Abundant pressed grapes are also provided and get the conversational juices flowing, even though the speeches are traditionally drier than the previously-mentioned hors d’oeuvres.
Last night’s two after-dinner speakers from the D.C.-based Tax Foundation were so dry, they sparked an onslaught of snarky tweets from lawmakers, lobbyists, and even media members in attendance.
It wasn’t as if their commentary, as advertised, wasn’t “principled, insightful, and engaged.” It’s just that most lawmakers had already heard their Power Point presentations in committee on simplifying and reforming Nevada’s tax structure.
Presentations like that are better left to stodgy committee rooms than late night dinner functions. Too much food and drink makes recipients prone to sleepiness–and the temptation to engage in the kind of food fights that were once reserved for the high school cafeteria.
And lest you think Nevada lawmakers are not going to seriously deliberate this session about taxes, and “a framework for the future”…
Last night, we may have been too tired to listen. In the coming weeks and months, we will no doubt take up Russell Long’s admonition to find what will be possible to fix and fund Nevada schools.
Taxing options will be a there for “you” and “me”… even if we can’t find that guy behind the tree.