Legislators destroy government from within
You do know you’re the one paying for this, right?
As the Legislature blithely goes about granting millions of dollars in tax credits to “opportunity scholarships” and Hollywood filmmakers, the ultimate funding source for these giveaways is somewhat obscure. Tax credits sound so nebulous and harmless, much better than more descriptive terms like corporate welfare or taxpayer-funded subsidies.
“Opportunity scholarships” sounds like something no one could be against. Identify it more properly as a revenue-siphoning mechanism transferring tax money to private and parochial schools, leaving less in the coffers for public schools, and it might not be so popular.
Assembly Bill 165, calling for taxpayer-funded scholarships to private schools, is Gov. Sandoval’s version of school vouchers, essentially privatizing public education. The bill was approved on party-line votes by the Assembly and the Senate and was proudly signed into law by its architect.
The bill authorizes $10.5 million in tax credits over the next two years to businesses that contribute to the Nevada Educational Choice Scholarship program. The funds will be used to subsidize enrollment at private and religious schools. Children who come from a family that meets a certain income threshold, 300 percent of the poverty level, about $73,000 a year for a family of four, can qualify for a ’scholarship.’ The tax credits are authorized to increase 10 percent per year after the initial biennium, with no cap.
Republicans insist the new law gives parents a choice about where to send their children to school. Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford summed up the Democrats’ opposition to the ’back-door’ voucher plan, saying, “It serves as a tax break for wealthier families as opposed to an opportunity for lower-income families to attend private school.”
Businesses who contribute to the scholarship fund will receive a tax credit on their Modified Business Tax so they won’t really be engaging in a charitable act, just redirecting public tax money to private and religious schools, thus designating their tax money for a specific purpose.
Wouldn’t we all like the opportunity to do that with our taxes, donate to our preferred program and then deduct it from our tax obligations?
Those millions may seem like chicken feed compared to the Senate bill championed by the Senate minority leader. He successfully convinced the 2013 Legislature to allocate $80 million for movie subsidies, only to see the governor snatch back $70 million in 2014 to put in the Tesla mega-incentive package instead.
At that time, when a forceful corporate mogul was negotiating for taxpayer funding, the governor’s economic development czar, Steve Hill, said the permanence of the Tesla jobs outweighed the temporary jobs of filmmakers.
But it’s a new year, which means the corporate appetite for taxpayer subsidies must be fed. The new and improved film subsides sailed through the state Senate unanimously, now allowing the program to utilize as much money as the Legislature will allocate in any given year. Soon we’ll be able to underwrite more projects like Mall Cop 2, which received $4.3 million of the original $10 million of our tax revenue to film in Nevada, while also earning a whopping 0 percent from Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics for its unwatchability.
Meanwhile, Tesla, the record-breaking subsidy scooper, is backing away from its 2014 promise to pay an average wage of $26.16 per hour, telling the Reno Gazette-Journal its wages would hover around $22 per hour.
Enter Hill once again to explain to the taxpayers: “We often don’t hold those companies to the exact amount (in the application) because, frankly, if we did, everybody would just say they would pay the minimum amount required because they don’t want to overcommit and put themselves in jeopardy in the future.”
Need a translation? Big business wins. Again.