A taxing chore
Officials of Reno and Sparks went to the state capital to sound out lawmakers on a tax hike
Amid the clatter, informality and relatively low lights of Mom and Pop’s Café in Carson City, the four dress shirts stood out in startling white.
Sen. William Raggio, Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, Sparks Mayor Geno Martini and Sparks City Manager Shaun Carey shed their coats when they arrived at the eatery across the street from the capital mall and in walking distance of the Nevada Legislature. Diners eyed the four, curious about what brought this municipal firepower to the feet of this legislative powerhouse.
In fact, people in the legislative hallways had been wondering all morning why there were so many municipal officials about. When the morning Senate session began, the local officials had lined up like a wedding reception line at the door to shake hands with entering senators. When asked why they were there, they gave aw-shucks answers and mentioned some fairly unimportant legislation dealing with graffiti and drag racing.
“We just, you know, come down here to talk to Sen. Raggio about some of the legislation, proposed bills that we have,” said Reno City Manager Charles McNeely. “Just an opportunity to check in with them, say hello, and see where things are.” When asked for specific bills he was interested in, he mentioned increasing penalties for drag racing and graffiti.
“Sparks has a single bill draft, which is on graffiti,” said Carey before the lunch. He said he was just there for “consultations.”
But when the lunch was over, it became known that there was something of greater moment than drag racing at issue. Raggio said the local officials sounded him out about the proposed sales tax increase for police stations and fire and police workforce expansion.
Voters in November defeated a county-wide sales tax hike 52-48 percent with Reno and Sparks narrowly backing it while county voters opposed it. That led city officials to believe they had a mandate for a cities-only tax hike, and they decided to go to the legislature for permission. The Reno City Council on Jan. 14 reluctantly agreed to request the legislature to make the hike conditional on a second, city-only election.
Sparks officials, often wary of climbing into bed with Reno, have held back from committing themselves to joining in the same legislation, but Carey and Martini’s presence at the lunch suggests a continuing interest in doing so.
Raggio said he believed the local officials asked for the second election because they know the measure can’t get out of the legislature otherwise—and may not even with the second election. “They’d like to get authorization to vote for a sales tax increase for public safety, conditioned on vote of the people, that the people support it in Reno and Sparks,” Raggio said.
Referring to the second election, he said, “I think because without that, it probably wouldn’t even be considered by the governor or the legislature. And I can’t say that it will be. You know, I think the whole Washoe delegation is going to have to discuss it and see whether they’re willing to support it.”
The Reno sales tax is already at 7.375 percent.
The legislation courts a veto from Gov. James Gibbons, who has said he won’t approve new or increased taxes.Food, prescription drugs and medical supplies are not taxed in Nevada, but many other necessities of life are—clothing, furniture and computers, for example.