Liberals may win at the Legislature

Soup to Nuts#

comprehensive school choice bill#

For the second time, a Nevada Legislature must soon decide if they will implement the greatest tax hike in Nevada history—under a Republican governor.

Gov. Sandoval’s original tax hike proposal passed the Senate, but is a dead letter in the Assembly. So on May 14, he announced a new “hybrid” tax proposal to marry his hike to an Assembly proposal. Predictably, it combines the worst of the two proposals. He will need at least 11 Republicans to vote for a tax increase, assuming no Democrat goes rogue and votes no. So far, he might have seven. Assemblymember Pat Hickey, on his “Soup to Nuts” blog, uses a baseball analogy to liken the holdouts, notably Ira Hansen, Michelle Fiore and Jim Wheeler, to playing “far right field.” He argues they better return to “center field” or they won’t be on the governor’s team, and might not get to bat in the next legislative session.

It could be that Gov. Sandoval’s popularity is masking his tax increase. He opposed the gross receipts tax on last November’s ballot. Is it the case that Nevadans simply are not aware, despite television ads and newspaper accounts, that the popular governor is a tax hiker?

There are two rationales for the tax increase. The first is that gambling is no longer the economic engine that drives Nevada. More people come to Las Vegas now for entertainment than to gamble. The mantra is we need to have a broader tax base to complement a more diversified economy.

But a broader tax base does not automatically mean higher taxes. We could raise more revenue with a broader base to meet the increase in population and inflation with lower taxes than proposed.

The second rationale is that more business would come to Nevada, except our public education is, frankly, a joke. Why should exciting new high tech jobs come here when our graduates often have to be retrained to perform simple business tasks by companies that hire them?

The problem with this rationale is that we have had decades of increased spending on education in Nevada and all over the country with very little improvements in outcome. Baltimore, for example, spends over 15,000 per pupil, but they are rioting because money doesn’t equal results. Businesses do not normally pour money into losing propositions, but they seem resigned to open their wallets again to patch the leaking K-12 Nevada system. Why?

There are other potential sources for education funding available. Colorado has shown that legalizing recreational marijuana is one of them. Marijuana should not be legalized simply because it can be taxed. There are compelling moral reasons for doing so. But it cannot be overlooked that this new industry could come online rather quickly to provide a boost in revenue that would alleviate the need for a dramatic tax increase

Taking back control of the public lands is a longer term, constitutionally sound means of raising new revenue. Depending on the amount of oil and mineral deposits that may be developed, Nevada’s control of the public lands could provide a significant new revenue stream. Other states that use this revenue for education have a track record of success.

Although Nevada has passed a modest school choice “opportunity scholarship” bill, there is a comprehensive school choice bill in committee that would make Nevada a choice leader for the nation. All it needs is a nudge from the governor, and it would sail through the Republican-controlled Legislature. What will it be, Gov. Sandoval, more taxes or more educational choice for Nevada?