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April 23, 2014

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state legislature:

Republicans get their way, mostly, in final budget

Democrats say deal was best they could get under the circumstances

State Budget Deal

KSNV coverage of the final verdict on Nevada budget, June 1, 2011.

Click to enlarge photo

Gov. Brian Sandoval, right, is joined by legislative leaders Sen. Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, and Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas to announce a budget agreement Wednesday, June 1, 2011, at the Nevada Legislative Building in Carson City.

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Sun Coverage

CARSON CITY — Big business will emerge from the 2011 Legislature paying no more in state taxes than they did before the session began.

Teachers and administrators, meanwhile, will take pay cuts totaling 7.5 percent; higher education and state workers will take a 4.8 percent pay cut in the form of furloughs; and social services will be cut.

Since Republicans were fighting to keep taxes low and Democrats were seeking to fund government services, including schools and universities, who do you think won the legislative endgame?

In a deal announced Wednesday, Gov. Brian Sandoval and Republicans extended for two years taxes passed in 2009 to fund a budget that contains pay cuts and layoffs for public employees and cuts to social services.

Over the next two years, the state will spend $6.77 billion — about $313 million more than Sandoval had originally proposed. It’s a number that despite its significant size is only a few percentage points higher than Sandoval had proposed, an amount Democrats railed against as devastating.

In exchange for Republican votes to extend the taxes, Democrats bucked their union allies, agreeing to support significant changes to education policy — making it easier to fire teachers — and collective bargaining, which dictates how local governments negotiate with unions.

As Tray Abney, lobbyist for the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce, which has consistently opposed taxes, put it: “They (Democrats) traded long-term permanent reform for two years of temporary taxes.

“My big guys will be paying the same, and all my little guys will be paying nothing,” he said, referring to the payroll taxes, which will be unchanged on larger businesses and eliminated for the 70 percent of businesses with payrolls of less than about $250,000 a year.

Rusty McCallister, lobbyist for the firefighters union, said, “We’ll be back here in two years doing exactly what we did: More permanent reforms for temporary taxes.”

Democrats’ universal defense was this: It was the best they could do under the circumstances.

“About a week ago, the proposal was to give gaming and mining a tax break,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas.

Democrats had the majority in both the Assembly and Senate, but lacked the two-thirds majority in each house required to pass a tax. On top of that, they had Sandoval, newly elected on a pledge not to raise taxes. He held fast to that decision until last week, when the Nevada Supreme Court issued a ruling, calling into question some of the local government money grabs contained in his budget.

Democrats saw the defeat coming. So they began early to frame many of the reforms they would agree to as their own. They did this despite the fact these issues — education and collective bargaining reforms — antagonized their base of union members and advocates for greater spending on government services.

“I think our education reforms make a lot of sense,” Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said.

Horsford noted that Senate Democrats pushed many of these reforms in 2009. “The overwhelming majority of teachers and the public support these reforms,” Horsford said. “They get to the heart of student achievement.”

But Republicans drove the reform efforts further than Democrats would have wanted.

The groundwork for Wednesday’s deal was laid in November, when state Senate Democrats lost a seat to a conservative Republican and failed to get the two-thirds supermajority. When longtime state Sen. Bill Raggio retired in January, a moderate voice for compromise on taxes, that set it in concrete.

Wednesday’s news conference was the predictable end: Sandoval stood at a lectern with Democratic and Republican leadership and about 40 of the 63 lawmakers.

Both sides tried to portray the agreement in a favorable light. Sandoval used some creative math to distract from the fact he had acquiesced to the Democrats’ spending and broken a campaign promise not to extend the 2009 tax increases. (He highlighted that general fund spending would drop to $6.2 billion, but another $500 million will be going to fund schools directly.)

Still, even though Sandoval accepted the Democrats’ overall spending plan, lawmakers were forced to make significant cuts. College and university students will have to pay higher fees, faculty and staff will take a pay reduction. K-12 personnel will be asked to take a 2.5 percent pay reduction plus see 5 percent their salary diverted to their retirement. And Clark County School District says about 500 people will be laid off.

Democrats faced an uphill battle on taxes — in their view, the game is rigged against tax reform because of the two-thirds required to pass a tax increase, or override a veto from the governor. They had little hope of winning enough Republican support to pass the new taxes they introduced this session to broaden the tax base and raise a total of $1.2 billion over two years.

“The most important reform didn’t get any serious consideration. And that’s tax reform,” Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno said. “But unless the governor will stand up and lead on this we are never going to get anywhere.

“It’s the tyranny of the minority. The only way to get at that is at the ballot box.”

Yet, even on that point, Democrats failed to win a concession from Sandoval. He would not agree to sign a bill that places a binding question on taxes directly to voters.

Oceguera said they likely will send him a bill anyway, even if it means a certain veto.

If Democrats are unable to override Sandoval on that issue, teachers and labor groups are saying they will collect signatures to put a tax increase in front of voters.

“Voters will have a say if legislators don’t act,” Horsford said.

Despite their victories, not all Republicans were happy with the deal.

Many voiced frustration that Sandoval chose to broadly interpret the court’s ruling that the state couldn’t take $62 million in user fees from the Clean Water Coalition. Sandoval believes that ruling calls into question $656 million in local money grabs that he included in his budget.

The interpretation spurred outrage from conservative operatives, an indication Leslie says proves Democrats “didn’t lose everything.”

As a result, not all Republicans are expected to vote for the compromise budget despite the fact their leaders won the desired policy concessions from Democrats.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said he won’t support the deal.

“My strong belief is that the Supreme Court decision creates an unexpected $62 million liability for the state,” he said. “That’s easily managed without the sunsets. We can’t make decisions based on hypotheticals or the fear that someone is going to sue us. You can’t be afraid to make tough decisions for the state.

“There will be at least one no vote in the Republican caucus.”

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  1. Once again big business walks away with their massive profits created by this economic mess we find ourselves in while the middle class pays the price. Where is the Sandoval recall vote?

  2. It's disappointing that we were unable to get more reforms that would have an immediate impact on job creation, but we were able to avoid the disastrous 'revenue plan' proposed by the Senate Majority Leader.

    Issues like the "Construction Defect" law, which has enriched a very select group of Trial Lawyers at the cost of thousands of Nevada jobs is not going away! Neither is further reform of an unsustainable fiscal policy for over-paying for the government services we all agree we need.

    P.S. The education reforms Governor Sandoval passed will protect our best teachers. Eliminating LIFO is HUGE!

  3. Furloughs are fake pay cuts - they still get the step increases, pay grade promotions etc. Since the pay scale itself has jumped 10 percent or more since 2007-08 and teachers still get promoted steps and grades teachers and other government workers will still come out ahead, earning as much or more than they did when the good times were still rolling in the Silver State

    http://www.thewesternwrangler.com/2011/0...

  4. Is that a typo? $6.77 billion is $900 million more than Governor Sandoval originally proposed and $600 million more than the adjusted proposal. Not $300 million. $6.77 IS $300 million more than we're spending right now.

  5. Democrats aren't making significant cuts. We're getting a spending increase. They're cutting from imaginary spending. The most money this state's general fund has ever spent (or at least been approved) is $6.9 billion.

    Democrats wanted a ridiculous $7.8 billion.

  6. RJ puts the budget at $6.2 billion so who is right?

    http://www.lvrj.com/news/sandoval-lawmak...

  7. If the budget is $6.2 billion then Democrats are making some ACTUAL cuts of around $200 million.

  8. Poor Pat...
    His HEAD IS SPINNING!!!

  9. I think this analysis puts it well: Republicans did manage to balance the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it, and Democrats got the best they could get. And those facts make this not the happy day that Governor Sandogibbons claims it is, but truly a sad one. At least now he can concentrate on going back to what really matters to him, and the rest of us can get ready to suffer.

    And spinning is an appropriate word for Mr. Gibbons. As for Assemblyman Sherwood, have you read this budget? Did you have time?

  10. Hey Pat,
    While you figgur out all the impotant, pertinent numbers, and report to us your SLANT, let me just say...
    Here's a BIG BRONX CHEER to the 2011 Legislature for not getting THE MINING INDUSTRY on board to help Nevada in their current budget mess.

    Once again, MINING digs it's way out of another tight spot. More FREE MONEY for Mining!

    There's GOLD in them thar hills!
    "go ahead & take it...we ain't a' usin' it... TAXES? We HATE taxes...they are evil... please, help yerself now. Take our gold & silver, with our blessing; we have no use for it."

  11. Gmag,

    Considering the Las Vegas Sun has 2 sets of numbers in their own article and a $6.25 billion in the pdf off to the side, I'd say they have a typo like I claimed.

    Don't hate the player, hate the game.

  12. Hey, Sherwood...

    Thank you for epitomizing Nevader's State Motto:

    "I solemnly pledge that I, Mark Sherwood, cannot see the forest fer them trees!"
    AMEN!

  13. "gmag39" - How is that the rest of us who post to the "Trusted Comments" section actually have to prove who we are, yet you are able to hide behind your user name?

  14. Dr. Green, don't be lazy, prove it.

    If anything "spinning" would describe you here. Balancing the budget on the backs of those who could least afford it? Give me a break.

    Most government workers haven't seen a real salary cut yet, they've only seen declines in imaginary pay increases. Additionally, the traditional welfare state is still very much in tact. As you should know, that spending is OUTSIDE THE GENERAL FUND. In fact the general fund which is the only thing we ever debate on makes up only 1/3rd of the state's overall budget.

  15. Gmag didn't write out his name when the Sun asked for it but he provided a phone number and the Las Vegas Sun checked to see if he is who he says he is...of course this can easily be scammed. I've long suspected Gmag of having and using multiple accounts including Birdie.

    He always runs in a pack of Mred, Birdie, and Airware. Where there is one, the others aren't far behind.

    That said, Gmag is an old pensioning government worker and "progressive" uninista with a Marxist streak.

  16. Give it a rest, Pat.
    Let others comment on the story.
    You are over the line, and completely off-base about me.
    Again, you have NO CLUE.

  17. I have never posted under another screen name, Pat. Do you suppose it's conceivable that there are OTHERS that feel as I do?
    ...and I'm not NEARLY old enough to receive a pension, from the Gubbermint or elsewhere.
    Anything else, Pat?

  18. It's driving Pat CRAZY that he cannot dig up dirt on me to assassinate my "character"...
    Use your energies wisely, Pat.
    Before you know it, you'll be an old, wrinkled up wrangler with ever diminishing skills.

  19. "I have never posted under another screen name, Pat."

    Perhaps some irony, given that Patrick originally posted here as "KDR81" and refused to acknowledge his actual identity, even when his cover was blown. He would regularly post as an "average joe" with multiple links talking about NPRI and how great they and their publications were... all while he was employed by them.

    Now that he's rechristened himself and is now a self-described "political consultant," he's suddenly indignant about your identity gmag.

    "Most government workers haven't seen a real salary cut yet, they've only seen declines in imaginary pay increases."

    And yet, a postponed sunset of tax cuts is "raising taxes?" Aren't those tax increases "imaginary" as well, given that logic?

    I know state and city employees who have seen very real, very substantial pay and benefit cuts. Patrick may want to deny that reality, but it's reality nonetheless.

    As for furloughs being "imaginary" pay cuts Patrick whines about, the step increases and pay grade promotions were frozen for many state employees years ago. Couple that with the unpaid days off they see as furloughs and some are making less than they were in 2008.

    In fact, I think Patrick's lumping together of "government workers" was intentional, so that he didn't have to go into the specifics of K-12 vs. higher ed vs. state employees and municipal employees. For actual details, rather than demagoguery, see:

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/feb...

  20. Segregationist "think" tanks that believe in over turning civil rights laws in the name of property rights have turned Nevada back into the "Mississippi of the West" with their reactionary agenda. Not only do important programs get cut, now the Governor vetoes health and safety legislation for Nevada employees.

    No wonder Sandoval says: "My kids don't look Hispanic."

    The Democrats of Nevada have failed once again.

  21. " higher education and state workers will take a 4.8 percent pay cut in the form of furloughs"

    Is this correct? I thought only half the cut was to be furloughs.

  22. "Gmag39" - Character assassination? Over the line?

    How about "mred" attempting to smear Governor Sandoval by quoting a fabricated 'news story' about his children.

    Maybe 'Gmag39' & 'mred' have special access at LasVegasSun.com.

  23. The video from Univision shows Sandoval making the statement about his kids, how is that fabricated?

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/blogs/ralston...

    He has to appeal to the teapotties and that so his race an issue with them apparently.

    A large percentage of the construction workers, including employees who are killed on the job, are Hispanic, but he vetoes laws that might improve work place safety.

  24. Dang, Ksand, I had forgotten ALL ABOUT OL' KDR81!
    That was back in the day when sgtrock was calling HIMSELF jfnance32! And it's all archived right here in the Sun...
    Let's reminisce a moment, SHALL WE?!?!

    Here's a few nuggets from the mouth of Patrick R. Gibbons, who was posting at the time under the "rap name" (?) of KDR81...

    The last thingi Las Vegas needs is tax dollars spent to advertise itself to the world.
    Everyone knows we're here.

    All class size reduction does is increase the likelihood that our children end up with ineffective teachers.

    4.5 percent pay increases are 50% above the average rate of inflation. They've been living the high-life at our expense. Time to cut back.

    You always needed a lot of help gmag, I'm just glad I can enlighten you in some way.

    If I was affiliated with NPRI you'd harp about the ideology of NPRI. If you didn't know you'd accuse me of being a member of NPRI.

    I've taught every grade level too, including a full time at 9th and 10th grade.

    why should a teacher get paid more than the guy scrubbing the toilets? I'd say he has the crappier job.

    A teacher works with 25-30 kids and does not really produce much wealth, nor is it all that difficult, nor do current demands require that much innovation. In reality, a lot of people can do that job.

    Assuming I was an NPRI employee (an interesting preoccupation on here"I guess this helps many of you cope with not wanting to read and digest material which might suggest your POV is incorrect), who just wanted to be a rap star like Red Ferret, what would the response be when I posted NPRI material.
    Red: "Oh that is just right wing crap, the only reason why you say that is because you work for NPRI you right wing zealot."

    ...at least by having my own rap name, and people not knowing who I work for, I'm able to take away one logical fallacy you might commit, so at worse people like you just say "Oh NPRI is just right wing crap" instead leave out the part about the way I reached my conclusions (so instead of two fallacies you only commit one).
    You can thank me later.

    THANKS for the MEMORIES (lies, misstatements & innuendo, too!), Pat!!!

  25. Kevin the answer is: on one hand it is a tax increase and on the other it is not.

    For example, the tax is current set to 0 for next year. So anything above 0 would be an increase. Keeping the tax means your expected taxes are up.

    On the other hand your actual taxes paid will be about the same.

    That said, there is no reason why the state government needed to pass that tax increase in the first place. All state Democrats did was try to sustain the spending bender from the housing bubble. Taking revenues out of the productive sectors of the economy to prop up the less productive government sector (which is more focused on jobs for adults that quality service) probably slowed our economic recover and probably also made things worse.

  26. Gmag, I don't know who you are and I don't care. All I care about is 1) you dont know what you're talking about and 2) that you never back up your propaganda with supporting evidence. The only reason why I know you're an old government pensioner is because you said so yourself. LoL.

    Also, saying I'm trying to assassinate your character is the pot calling the kettle black. All you know how to do is try and stigmatize your opponents and belittle them.

  27. Kevin,

    What the Las Vegas Sun (and probably other media sources) are missing is that a furlough is a reduction in work days but not necessarily a reduction in the amount they were paid in the previous year.

    Government workers get pay raises every year so your hourly rate can go up but you work fewer days. It can work out so your pay actually increases year to year even though the government claims they cut salaries through furloughs.

    I pointed this out through the CCSD teacher salary schedule.

    Now if you're a government worker and want to prove me wrong, please submit your tax returns or past pay stubs to patrick @ patrickrgibbons.com

  28. Mr. Gibbons, you are a capitalist. Why should you expect me to prove anything to you without you paying me? After all, you were paid at NPRI to do a certain casino owner's bidding, and all you use are discredited reports that no one else cites because they have been proved wrong. So I'd say YOUR backers didn't get their money's worth.

  29. Michael...
    Excellent points, indeed.
    I've said that to Pat so many times in so MANY WAYS, but he just WILL NOT LISTEN!!
    Pat's intense desire to have OTHER PEOPLE prove his fallacious nonsense incorrect in annoying to the NTH.

  30. Tanker,

    I appreciate your efforts to engage in a rational debate by supplying evidence to make your points. This has been sorely missed among your side of the political spectrum on the Las Vegas Sun.

    First, you're only looking at the general fund. The general fund is only a portion - about 3/4ths of the operating fund which in turn is just 3/4ths of the total spending.

    Second, CCSD's student population has actually declined. We're down about 10-15K and down about 25-30k from where they projected our growth at this point.

    Next when looking at all sources of expenditures excluding capital projects, per pupil spending didn't see a decline until about 2010 after the special session. In fact, for all the caterwauling about budget cuts back in 2009 it appeared as if K-12 education would actually be spending more money than in the previous biennium - just less than they wanted.

    Finally, building schools is no excuse for spending problems. Arizona has SIGNIFICANTLY less debt per pupil, in part because of their huge charter school program. The other part is probably because they have a more competitive bidding process for public school construction rather than what we do in CCSD and let the gold old boys build the school.

  31. "Government workers get pay raises every year so your hourly rate can go up but you work fewer days. It can work out so your pay actually increases year to year even though the government claims they cut salaries through furloughs."

    Again, you're lumping all government employees together when it differs greatly. I called you out on that, and you respond by doing it again. Let's see how you're wrong.

    Let's take a look at UNLV's HR page for classified staff:
    http://hr.unlv.edu/new/classified-salary...

    "(Annual step) Merit pay for the 2009-2011 biennium was suspended by the Nevada Legislature with SB421."

    Let's take a look at the Nevada State Employee Handbook:

    "Senate Bill No. 421 temporarily suspends longevity and merit pay increases for State employees from July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2011."

    The other "raise" "government workers" get "every year" is COLA, which... was NOT granted by the legislature in 2009-2010 OR 2010-2011.

    So these workers take 12 days of unpaid furlough a year. They're definitely paid less than they otherwise would be.

    Just a clue: not all "government" workers are covered under teacher labor contracts, Pat. Why are you blatantly obfuscating that fact?

  32. "Kevin the answer is: on one hand it is a tax increase and on the other it is not."

    You voted for it before you voted against it, right Patrick?

    If your Bentley budget is imaginary, then so are the tax cuts. Welcome to reality.

  33. "Mr. Gibbons, you are a capitalist. Why should you expect me to prove anything to you without you paying me? After all, you were paid at NPRI to do a certain casino owner's bidding, and all you use are discredited reports that no one else cites because they have been proved wrong. So I'd say YOUR backers didn't get their money's worth."

    Mr. Green, this is a logical fallacy and you should know this - you earned a PhD (they should have trained you...I'm going to keep calling you Mr. until you stop this logical fallacy).

    The irony is so incredibly ripe, I can't help myself. By your logic teachers, government workers and professors can't be trusted to provide accurate commentary on budgets, spending, policy or budget cuts.

    So until you're no longer paid by the university Mr. Greene you can't be trusted to comment on education or state budget issues. ;)

    Or you can withdraw the fallacy and have your status as a fully rational and logical adult restored :P

  34. Bently? Those are for old guys and rap stars. I said Aston Martin.

    I am glad, however, that you agree that most of the budget cuts the state has undertaken have been imaginary budget cuts...that is, budget cuts in dollars we've never before spent in state history.

    (now, you will note that those taxes that expire were at one point disposable income for the people and businesses of the Silver State and were to return that way once again...not quite the same thing).

  35. Kevin, care to submit your pay stub or tax returns for the record? ;)

  36. Kevin longevity pay is a bonus for 8 plus years. Merit pay was a bonus for good ratings. Neither are step increases which are pay increases for growing a year older. Neither are the "ranks or pay grade" (I can't remember what they're called in state, local and school district budgets).

    Unless the step promotions don't exist (and for some government workers they don't) and unless promotions up the pay grade are frozen) then it is still likely that government workers earn more today, despite furloughs, than they did when the recession began.

    I never said that wouldn't be less than they expected.

  37. "Bently[sic]? Those are for old guys and rap stars. I said Aston Martin."

    You're right, I barely pay enough attention to your ranting to notice which garish and ostentatious manhood enhancer you drool over. My bad.

    "(now, you will note that those taxes that expire were at one point disposable income for the people and businesses of the Silver State and were to return that way once again...not quite the same thing)."

    Um, then what's then exemption for the MBT enjoyed by thousands of Nevada's small businesses that will continue now? You win some, you lose some.

    "I am glad, however, that you agree that most of the budget cuts the state has undertaken have been imaginary budget cuts..."

    Is that what I said now? Patrick, you need to learn how to read.

  38. Patrick, in the state, merit/step are used interchangeably. See the link you apparently were too lazy to read:

    "Annual step (merit) increases -- Performance is evaluated annually, and employees who receive a rating of standard or better will receive a merit pay increase of one step on their pay progression date. The pay progression date is either the date of hire into the position, or -- if promoted more than two grades -- the date of promotion into the position. Merit pay for the 2009-2011 biennium was suspended by the Nevada Legislature with SB421."

    In the employee handbook, it also identifies merit AS step.

    Reading is fundamental!

  39. "Kevin, care to submit your pay stub or tax returns for the record? ;)"

    I've never been fortunate enough to have received a pay stub from the state, Patrick.

    I have, however, invoiced them.

    Meanwhile, I'll show you that invoice if you tell us who your clients are in your new political consultant gig.

  40. Ksand...
    Do not hold your breath!!!

  41. Now that bad teachers with seniority or tenure can be fired, maybe the students will come out the winners. The very idea of keeping teachers that just show up to get their checks and don't help the kids just because the schools might be in poorer neighborhoods is ridiculous. Their mentality seems to be "the kids are losers so why try."

    I would also like to know who is responsible for CCSD Administrators getting 1800 laptops at a cost of over 1 million bucks! That money could have been spent on teachers salaries or books and supplies for the kids. Something is wrong with that.

  42. Until the curriculum and priorities are changed in K-12, we will continue to be the losers and the kids will have to educate them selves. With no books to study from, and the teachers given a lesson plan to follow, they are teaching a test that has no significance to the real world. This makes for student that are unfit for the work force or for going on to college. These kids get built into the system failure at just about every level - except the entitlement mentality.

    Why do we give welfare recipients prepaid Cell Phones?

  43. I salute Sen. Roberson for his intention to vote no on this bill. It's just plain shameful that we will continue to see excessive taxes during a down economy, especially when we have a Republican governor with the power to stop them. Make no mistake, Nevadans were promised -- by then-candidate Sandoval -- that there would be no new taxes and no extension of the sunset taxes. That promise has now been broken. If the governor wasn't willing to keep this promise, he shouldn't have made it. It's disheartening that there aren't more politicians like Senator Roberson possessing the integrity to keep to their campaign promises.

  44. Kevin,

    That isn't how it works. The burden of proof is on government workers who are complaining about salary cuts. I'm showing there may not be any real salary cut because of the way government workers are paid. CCSD, for example, negotiated a significant bump in the salary schedule in 2009. If this occurs with other government agencies, even suspending step increases can result in a salary increase.

    Are you saying you are not paid by any government agency Kevin?

  45. Kevin, you are correct, step increases are "merit" (hardly seem that way to me considering they're almost automatic). Pay grade promotions have not been stopped and as I stated before the pay schedule itself may have been dramatically altered.

    CCSD's pay schedule for step 1 increased across the board, for the mid level step it averaged around 10 percent (twice inflation over the last 3-4 years) and the top step was reduced by 2 years across the board. So at CCSD, even stopping step increases and adding in furlough days many teachers have seen their pay increase over the 2008 school year.

  46. Hey, Pat...
    You're ignoring Tanker.
    Can you please answer the questions...
    I can't wait!!!

    "Kevin, that isn't how it works"...
    Only in Pat's World, Kids!

    Roseannerosannadanna....

    Why don't you come out of the closet.
    It MUST be dark in there!!!