First business ever says will leave NV if taxed
“The biggest danger facing Burning Man right now is that the state of Nevada has levied an entertainment tax.” This ludicrous statement was made by Burning Man’s CEO, Marian Goodell, who said the event is “looking longingly” to Utah or other states disinclined to tax the Burners.
Even some of the Burning Man blog sites lampooned Goodell for her remarks, wondering what was so wrong with raising ticket prices 9 percent, from $390 to $425, to pay the state its due. But others righteously pointed out all the money Burners spend in local stores and defended their massive annual invasion of the Black Rock Desert as a non-taxable right, not a privilege.
It’s just the latest example of the petulant self-serving threats we Nevadans hear every time the Legislature tries to update the state’s tax structure. Affected industries rally their lobbying corps and denounce any plan to raise revenue, with furious rhetoric about unfairness and their plans to leave the state behind.
Remember the banks in 2003? Many insisted they would flee for friendlier, albeit colder, non-taxing states like the Dakotas if a 2 percent payroll tax were placed on financial institutions. Last time I checked, the banks are still here.
Former Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick best channeled our collective frustration with businesses who refuse to pay their way in Nevada, despite paying much higher taxes in surrounding states. When Kirkpatrick offered her fix for the entertainment tax back in 2013, she was offended by the bullying tactics of some businesses and told the press, “I’ve got a hotline to U-Haul, and I’m happy to help them if that’s the attitude.”
Burning Man’s conceptual desertion pales in comparison with a much bigger threat to Nevada’s budget, a petition currently being circulated by the anti-taxers to repeal the tax package from the 2015 legislative session. Due to the record-breaking low voter turnout in 2014, just 55,000 signatures are needed to put the referendum on the 2016 ballot.
Gov. Brian Sandoval will be leading the fight against the repeal, probably in the form of a “decline to sign” campaign to deny petition organizers the signatures they need. The proponents have their own clever slogan to “ax the tax” led by the “We Decide Coalition” as if a two-thirds vote of the duly-elected Legislature were not representative of the voters’ views.
Sandoval is already framing his arguments, recently telling the Reno Gazette-Journal, “Those that are bringing this petition are going to have to answer the question: What are you going to cut? … Because it’s not just about undoing what I want to get done. It’s undoing the future of this state.”
Unfortunately, the “we decide” people don’t actually have to present an alternate vision for Nevada’s budget. It’s enough to engage voters at the grocery store with a line about taxes being too high and collect a signature as a protest vote.
The battle over the referendum will likely lead to an even deeper fracture in the Nevada Republican Party during a challenging presidential campaign year with far too many candidates, led by a cartoonish reality television star. It’s going to be hard to get anyone’s attention long enough to explain the consequences of signing the repeal petition.
But Republican legislative candidates will be forced to take a firm stand one way or the other on the petition, backing Sandoval in support of education funding and a more broad-based tax system or furiously promising voters they support repealing the taxes and replacing them with deep cuts in the state budget to the tune of $667 million a year.
My advice? When they try to convince you Wal-Mart and the Burners can’t afford to pay Nevada’s tiny taxes, tell them yes, they can.