The alarmist campaign

“Let’s you and him fight” is a comic line that has been employed everywhere from a Popeye cartoon to psychiatrist Eric Berne’s Games People Play. In this year’s campaign, affluent businesspeople have been using it: “Let’s you pay more for schools.”

For decades, groups like the League of Women Voters and the Nevada Women’s Lobby have carefully built the case for the notion that well-funded schools attract good companies to the state, and business lobbyists have countered that, no, low taxes bring them here. So it should be a surprise that businesspeople are behind the ballot measure, WC-1, that seeks an eighth Washoe sales tax increase—the sixth increase solely for schools. But it’s no surprise, because this is their favorite tax, one that socks low-income people harder than the affluent. Realtors alone have ponied up more than $200,000 to pass WC-1.

One reader angrily wrote us that “we have absolutely no alternative” than the one on the ballot, and that the public has to act now. That’s the line the business campaign sells, but actually, there is neither urgency nor a single choice. Yes, the business committee that drafted the ballot measure had limited options. The Nevada Legislature has more.

This school year’s Washoe school budget is already set. However the public votes on WC-1, the impact will fall on the 2017-2018 school year—after the next session of the Nevada Legislature, at which Washoe County’s legislative delegation can do something more about our school funding than this slapped-together, regressive ballot measure. The legislative session begins just 12 weeks after the election and winds up at the end of the school year. Legislators could choose from building impact fees, room taxes and the real estate transfer tax—school funding sources in other counties but denied Washoe.

Since 1955, low-income Nevadans have carried the burden of the sales tax. It’s time they had some relief. It is not time to raise the sales tax. It is time to reduce it.

There is no campaign against WC-1, which makes the role of journalists all the more important—and they are taking a dive. It also makes the role of Democrats more important, but when choosing between the working poor and teachers, they leave workers behind. Bernie Sanders supporters who said they would champion the working poor after the convention are similarly silent on this tax.

The business community’s tax breaks have drained sales taxes from schools. In other words, the school shortfall is partly due to the business community that now seeks higher sales taxes. Comically, WC-1 advocate Richard Jay wrote somewhat confusedly on his group’s Facebook page, “Panasonic/Tesla is taking resume for 400 plus jobs now, it will only increase not to mention Switch and other companies coming here. The state created the tax deals, the school districts must find a funding source to fix old schools and build new ones. Where do we find the funds?”

The late Sen. Debbie Smith tried to repair the school drain from STAR bonds and broke her pick trying. A regressive tax hike is no remedy for the business community’s unrelenting desire for more and more incentives. Moreover, approving another sales tax hike provides no disincentive for business to go back to the sales tax well again the next time.