Some new taxes

Nevada has a unique way of looking at taxes. We don’t want to pay them. We know our government needs money to provide services—to build roads, to provide public safety, to educate students—and we want those services. We just think someone else should shell out for them. Saying that statement is not true, that it’s somehow irresponsible, doesn’t really advance the debate over how to solve the budget crisis.

As Nevadans, we prefer our tax-base to come from two sources, out-of-staters and the iniquitous. We especially like it when the two groups come together. We like to take advantage of other people’s and business’ weaknesses to fund our state’s most basic needs.

So, let’s cut through the bullshit. Let’s be real. Until we accept that we are unwilling to pay our own way for our own government, we can’t solve our state’s budget crisis. It’s that simple. Once we acknowledge that, though, we have a clear strategy for looking for new sources of revenue.

Students of history will recognize how analogous this period is to those days back in 1931 when Nevada legalized casino-style gambling. The Great Depression was raging, and there was no end in sight. Having just set up state laws to encourage the quickie divorce, Nevada was looking to gain some leverage from the expected influx of tourists.

We are not going to change our fundamental way of doing business. For example, we’re not going to set up an income tax on people who make more than a quarter million dollars a year. We’re more likely to set up a poverty tax to encourage business innovation.

But, aren’t there a few ways to take better advantage of out-of-staters or to encourage and profit from iniquity?

Legalizing the growth and sale of marijuana certainly appears to hit those two categories. A straight legalization of pot and hemp within our state borders would encourage a whole new kind of agriculture (and by the way, marijuana is a very low impact plant, requiring less water than many plants like corn, less fertilizer than beans and is usable in a variety of applications from paper to clothing to psychoactive mood enhancer), a new bracket of excise tax and a whole stream of regulatory fees and fines.

We can guarantee a steady stream of income if the state of Nevada were to legalize this fairly innocuous plant before one of the other desperate states in this desperate union decides to make the leap.

Wouldn’t a state lottery allow us to tax the iniquitous? True, this one’ll plainly require the participation of our in-state degenerates, but we’re being pragmatic here, aren’t we? A lottery could diminish the effects of our budget crisis on our primary and secondary school systems, but as long as we’re thinking out of the box, why not start a lottery that could be sold at university events, which could help diminish the effects of our budget shortfall on post-secondary education? Even the casinos could profit if the law were simply written to give gaming a 5 percent (or a 30 percent) processing fee.

And finally, as long as we’re accepting the reality of the situation, can’t we accept that the largest mining corporations in our state are not only out-of-staters, but primarily foreigners? There was some $5.4 billion in gold taken out of Nevada in 2007 for which mining corporations paid less than 1 percent in taxes. If we just accepted 4 percent of the value of the mineral resource taken from our state, we’d have an extra $216 million. Gosh, even the state’s gambling tax is 6.75 percent—the lowest in the nation. And the gamers are, by and large, Nevadans through and through.