- Associated Press - Thursday, October 29, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A report card from the conservative Nevada Policy Research Institute gave failing grades to Gov. Brian Sandoval and moderate GOP lawmakers who helped pass a $1.1 billion tax package, contending Republicans squandered their time in power and failed to shake things up.

The think tank issued the grades on a scale of 0 to 100 percent based on how closely the politicians lined up with NPRI’s legislative priorities.

The institute opposes tax increases, tax incentive programs and many spending measures, while pushing to weaken union power and scale back public employee pensions.

“With left-leaning Republicans at the helm, lawmakers considered the largest tax increase in state history, instead of pushing through substantive and needed labor and pension reforms,” NPRI executive vice president Victor Joecks said.

The think tank gave Sandoval a score of just 43 percent because he pushed the tax plan but praised him for supporting education savings accounts that allow parents to claim a majority of their child’s per-pupil state education funding and apply it toward a private school.

NPRI has lauded the program, which is facing two lawsuits as it gears up for launch, and has organized outreach sessions to spread the word.

A half-dozen high ranking Republican state senators, including its top member, U.S. House candidate Michael Roberson, scored 39 percent. A bloc of ardently anti-tax members of the Assembly scored in the 80s and 90s, although they ultimately failed to gather enough votes to stop the tax package.

Roberson responded to his score by saying he was proud to lead the charge to implement Sandoval’s vision, and by citing his work on collective bargaining and pension reforms that were less dramatic than those backed by NPRI.

“I am not concerned with the rankings of a libertarian ‘think-tank’ that applauds those who refuse to address head-on the needs of our community and who fail to take any responsibility whatsoever for governing,” Roberson said in a statement.

Rural Republican Assemblywoman Robin Titus topped NPRI’s list with a rating of 93 percent after voting against virtually every tax and spending bill and vocally opposing tax incentive programs such as one designed to attract filmmakers to Nevada.

NPRI named Titus “the taxpayer’s best friend.”

Legislative Democrats, who earned an aggregate score of 14 percent, touted their low rankings from the think tank as a badge of progressive honor.

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