Dodging the anti-tax crowd

I see her waiting in front of Safeway. An innocuous-looking woman sitting at a harmless little table. I know what she wants—my signature on a not-so-harmless anti-tax petition.

I consider driving to another store. I need groceries.

In the past month, I’ve been hit up by numerous volunteers and paid assassins. Their goal: To recruit suckers to sign initiative petitions that, if approved, would wreak havoc on Nevada’s piddling state budget.

I make a run for the grocery store door. I’m careful not to make eye contact.

This doesn’t work.

“Excuse me, are you registered to vote in Nevada?”

“Yup,” I admit, scurrying along.

“Would you sign a petition to stop out-of-control taxes?”

My heart pounds. I catch my breath.

“Absolutely not,” I say, firmly. She doesn’t argue.

There’s another shopper right behind me.

“Are you registered to vote in Nevada?” she asks the man. I don’t wait to see if she reels him in. Her odds are good, though, considering a Las Vegas Review-Journal poll in April showed that the Property Tax Restraint Initiative, a Proposition 13-style limit on property taxes, was supported by 66 percent of Nevada voters.

I guess the plan sounds good to naïve tax-haters who really believe that Nevada’s government is a spendy behemoth wasting piles of dough on luxuries like roads and education. You never know what might seem logical to Nevada residents. (Remember how we spent our DMV rebate checks? Cha-ching went the slot machines.)

Taxes? We don’t like ’em. But compared with residents of most other states, we barely pay ’em. We’re one of seven states (others being Alaska, Florida, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming) with no state income tax. Property taxes are already low, all things considered. Homeowners in Midwestern states often pay around three times what we pay. Or more. We’ve no inheritance taxes—ever wonder who’s living in all those mansions in the hills?—and levy no tax on retirement income.

Life is good, tax-haters. But there’s a trade-off.

One of the biggest pieces of the state budget pie is education. And by most objective measures, our schools are hurting. When it comes to high school completion rates, Nevada’s scores are consistently the lowest in the nation. Schools are overcrowded. Technology is outdated—and so are textbooks. Buildings are in decay in many areas—with little money to replace toilets, let alone leaking roofs.

In Nevada, we like to say we value education. But we somehow refuse to equate state taxes with improved schools and better teachers. This baffles me. I don’t enjoy paying taxes—especially to the feds who’re digging us into debt spending gazillions on weapons of mass destruction to facilitate U.S. imperialism.

But local taxes equal money for local spending.

Local spending allows for improvements to local schools.

Improvements to local schools leads to well-educated citizens who make more money.

Well-educated citizens who make more money contribute more money to state coffers—and to the general vitality of the community.

And so it goes. We sign our names to petitions as if state taxes were killing us. That’s rarely the case. Taxes are, however, a bugger to the large industries that pay most of the money into the state coffer—gambling and mining. Anti-tax petitions help these industries increase their bottom lines so that CEOs can own private jets, send kids to private schools and winter in Caribbean beach mansions.

The rest of us have to live here.

If you think that Nevada corporations should contribute less to public schools, roads and law enforcement, go ahead and sign the petitions.

If you care about our state, smile and keep walking.