Here’s where the rebate belongs

A fun hypothetical:

Joe walks into a convenience store for a pack of Camels.

There to greet him is a tax-hating Republican senator from Las Vegas.

“Joe, I see you’ve been smoking a pack of cigarettes every day for the past two years,” the senator could explain. “That means you’ve contributed an extra $300 or so to the state budget since 2003. That’s when bad tax-mongering liberals raised the butt tax 45 cents a pack.

“But I’m here, Joe, to give you that money back. Here. Take $250 and this complimentary carton of Turkish blends. Don’t forget to vote Republican! We care about your money.”

By now, our legislators may have voted on a plan to place back in the hands of taxpayers those hard-earned millions stolen by the state over the past couple of years.

As we’ve been hearing since January, our governor hopes to return a $300 million state surplus to the people who paid it. The plan: Send DMV rebate checks to vehicle registrants. One alternative (offered by the state’s edgier Democrats): Send checks to every licensed driver.

But wait. I can’t remember jacking up DMV fees for vehicle registration or drivers’ licenses in 2003. Where did that surplus come from?

As many of you know, a handy chunk came from sin taxes. The tax on a pack of cigarettes puffed up an additional 45 cents (to 80 cents per pack). The tax on booze was topped off with a 75 percent increase. And don’t forget a 10 percent tax whipped up for admissions and drinks at live entertainment venues.

So to be completely fair, I say let state legislators visit every bar and strip club from Wendover to Pahrump, handing out $10s and $20s to drinkers, smokers and enjoyers of lap dances.

Hell, lawmakers can even remind sinners to vote Republican in every election from now till eternity. Everyone in red loves the green and remembers who gave it to ’em on Election Day.

State tightwads stewed for two years about not getting their way on the 2003 budget. They won’t stand for anything less this year than checks in the mail—preferably addressed to them. Guinn’s going along, threatening to veto any budget that doesn’t include a rebate.

Good thing all of our public needs are met here in Nevada—best schools in the nation, no seniors or underpaid casino workers going without health care, no underfunded fire and police departments. Everything’s hunky dory in the Silver State.

When the state Legislature in 2003 passed the famed $836 million tax increase, a few Republicans whined, moaned and forecasted an upheaval in the 2004 elections. Highway robbery! A “record” increase! By gum, voters would get rid of those bleeding-heart legislators who’d had the gall to increase taxes in order to fund silly socialist programs like public education. No matter that Nevada’s schools were (and still are) bursting at the seams with new students and more new students and even more new students.

What happened during state elections in 2004?

Not much of an upheaval.

In fact, Nevada Democrats kept control of the Assembly.

And given the demographic shift in Nevada’s population over the past decade—the People’s Republic of California is here, so adapt or move to Idaho—Democrats might stand a chance at regaining some of the top state offices, now held by Republicans. There seems plenty of support for investing in education. It makes sense from every perspective—especially that of state economic diversification. Good schools attract good businesses interested in retaining qualified workers who care about their kids’ schools.

Give the money back?

Who wants it?

Hire another kindergarten teacher. Build new schools. Renovate decrepit roofs. Repair faulty plumbing. Replace books and antediluvian computers.

Or be fair and return Joe’s $300.