Here’s to the little guys
Victory belongs to the most persevering.
The Nevada Constitution was amended in 1996 by an initiative that passed with over 70 percent of the vote. It reads: “An affirmative vote of not fewer than two-thirds of the members elected to each House is necessary to pass a bill or joint resolution which creates, generates or increases any public revenue in any form, including but not limited to taxes, fees, assessments and rates, or changes in the computation bases for taxes, fees, assessments and rates. Art 4, sec 18.2.”
Why was this amendment necessary? Because governments grow by means of concentrated benefits and diffuse costs. New taxes benefit some at the expense of others. Those who want the benefits organize and are called “special interests.” The public at large cannot organize for specific benefits, and bear the “diffuse costs.” Most people are too busy earning a living to be able to react to specific new taxes. Any one tax increase may not seem like much, perhaps a few dollars at a time. These small increases add up, but it is easier, as the saying goes, to put a frog in water and turn the heat up slowly than to dump it into a cauldron of boiling water all at once. Before he knows what is happening, the tax-paying frog is slow cooked.
In the last legislative session, AB 46 was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. This bill authorized local county government to raise property and sales taxes, ostensibly for school construction, with only a majority vote by the legislators. The increase in property taxes would also be separate from the official property tax cap. Why have a cap when you can just create a new tax?
The special interests who lobby for increases in government are usually well paid for their efforts. Numerous government and corporate entities have paid lobbyists in Carson City. Government employees are often given paid leaves from their jobs to lobby and demonstrate for more government.
In Nevada, we have been fortunate to have a small but dedicated group of citizen lobbyists who forsake their personal lives and spend an enormous amount of time at the state Legislature to defend the rights of the citizen at large. For years these have included Janine Hansen and others associated with Nevada Families for Freedom.
While I cannot agree with some of their positions—the families they defend are always very traditional and very well documented—it is wonderful to have Nevadans so committed to the principles of limited government. They can be relied on to testify eloquently against tax increases and for civil liberties. They alone opposed AB 46 at the legislative hearings.
When AB 46 was passed it was immediately seen as an end run around the Nevada Constitution. The grassroots networks that Nevada Families had created were alerted. The Washoe County Commission received the phone calls and emails that were needed to inform them of the people’s outrage over this blatant parliamentary maneuver. When Commissioner Kitty Jung made the motions Nov. 12 to implement AB 46 and raise taxes, she was met with complete silence. Not a single commissioner seconded the motion. We must congratulate the courage of Commissioners David Humke, Bonnie Weber, Marsha Berkbigler, and Vaughn Hartung in defying the Legislature and the governor.
But most of all, we have to be grateful that there are those Nevadans whose names are not on a plaque in front of a government chair but who care about the eternal battle waged by government power against freedom. This time they have persevered.