The 2015 Nevada Legislature was a mixed bag
I give the 2015 Nevada Legislature a very mixed review.
I give an A+ for passing not one, but two school choice bills. Nevada has gone from being one of the worst states for school choice to one of the best. The combination of opportunity scholarships combined with Educational Savings Accounts (ESA) that can be used by parents for a variety of non-public school expenses is the kind of structural change that I hoped would come out of this Republican one-party rule. Parents now can send their children to private schools without hurting the school districts since the funding comes from the Distributive School Account, leaving intact other funding for per pupil expenditures. A quality alternative education is now within reach for Nevada’s poorest children.
However, the Nevada Legislature gets an F for buckling under to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s huge tax increase. This will tarnish the Republican brand in Nevada for years. A modest tax increase tied to inflation and population growth would have been acceptable. The governor’s tax increase is embarrassing to conservatives and libertarians who elected Republicans promising to lower taxes and cut government. Now liberals are happily tweeting that Gov. Sandoval is their “Democratic governor.” Ray Hagar quipped the Democrats should work hard to keep Republicans in power so they can get their agenda passed. Sandoval simply rolled over to the unions and big business, saddling Nevada with a completely unnecessary tax increase and bloated budget.
Watching the testimony on May 30 in front of the Assembly Committee of the Whole, it became obvious who benefits from this tax increase, and it sure ain’t Nevada’s children. Testifying against the bill were blue collar industries like trucking and scrap metal, concerned that the gross receipts tax would hit hardest in years with minimal profits or even losses. Testifying for the bill were the usual dominant players in Nevada, the gaming, financial, mining and telecommunications industries who will benefit from playing ball with the governor while saddling new competitors with higher taxes. These lobbyists insisted that they were willing to sacrifice for the children because it’s really not about money, it’s about quality of life. When you have been around for a while, you know when someone says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.
The new commerce tax will act like a European-style value added tax, pyramiding tax upon tax as each stage of production will be hit. Proponents claim the tax will not affect 90 percent of businesses in the state but when pressed admit the tax is designed for expansion. The closest thing to immortality on Earth is a new government tax.
There will be constitutional challenges because the tax violates the Nevada Constitution’s mandate that taxes be uniform. There are 27 different rates for different industries, which will be a full employment program for corporate lobbyists. As these impeccably dressed courtiers infest Carson City, those who look a tad scruffier will pay more for cigarettes, retail goods, rents, and utilities while seeing their taxes fund more administrators, boondoggles and flat outcomes.
We have heard the same siren song every time taxes have been raised for education—this time it will be different. Well, it won’t. Sandoval is whistling past the graveyard wherein lie the bones of governors Bryan, Miller and Guinn, whose enormous education spending increases got us to today, where everyone blithely admits the public schools suck. If Republicans really wanted to run government as a business, they would have cut educational spending as wasteful and unproductive. Instead, they opened our wallets without any expectation of better results. For shame!