A green business environment? Yeah, right.
“A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.”
—Adlai E. Stevenson
Once again our venerable legislature is out to prove the hypothesis that part-time, citizen legislators are preferable to full-time, career ones—not because they’re any more intelligent, but only because they get the chance to screw up every other year as opposed to every year. Depending on your perspective, that would be either this legislative session or the last.
For the uninitiated, last legislative session, the powers that be passed Assembly Bill 3. Said law provides for sales and property tax relief for building projects that meet “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards"—in short, buildings that are constructed to be environment friendly. Or, if you prefer, “green.”
This is an eminently intelligent law for anyone concerned with the environment and the economy in the Silver State. I mean, which makes more sense—give businesses an incentive to relocate here and build eco-friendly, or brow-beat them with penalties and additional taxes?
Which brings us to the sheer stupidity (or is it hypocrisy?) that is this session’s SB 567.
The bill, which temporarily suspends the law, was introduced as an emergency measure and immediately voted on, passing on a 19-2 vote.
Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, claimed the bill would let legislators “take a deep breath” to examine the effects of the tax breaks (because, apparently, they didn’t bother the first time it passed). In fact, the good Senator told his colleagues before the vote that no one fully comprehended the full impact of the law when it passed in 2005. (Doesn’t this just give you the warm fuzzies? Legislators who reverse themselves based on their own ignorance of laws they’ve already passed? Makes me wonder why I vote Republican sometimes, but I digress.)
According to the U.S. Green Building Council, 36 for-profit developments are going green in Nevada.
Clark County has received notice from both the MGM Mirage and the Fontainebleau about building green projects reportedly worth several billion dollars.
The biggest project is the $7.4 billion City Center project in Las Vegas.
And yet, here was Clark County Manager Virginia Valentine on the lost revenue to Clark County: “It’s a very difficult thing for us to estimate. Depending on how much of an incentive we are offering, it could have a very serious negative impact to our revenues.”
And here was Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Reno, on the lost revenue to the state: “We have a responsibility to take care of our students in our schools.”
Before the Assembly vote, Gov. Jim Gibbons threatened to veto the measure, saying companies that have invested technology thinking that they would save money could seek legal action against the state if the tax breaks plan is “changed in the middle of the stream.”
After the vote, Assemblyman Morse Arberry Jr., D-Las Vegas, and chair of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, claimed they’d override any veto by the governor.
So, apparently, when it comes to incentives to help clean air and water versus tax dollars, we now know where all our politicians stand.
The honesty medal this week goes to Arberry, “We need the money,” he said.
That’s not quite really true. They don’t need the money. They want the money.
Of course, that’s until the next round of Find the Money, when legislators will forget incentives and simply mandate clean air and water standards by another round of tax hikes—all the while claiming to be champions of the environment.
And that, perhaps, brings us back to Stevenson’s quote.