Stop giving high-tax states an IRS deduction

Trump announces tax plan (AP pix)

So Trump has finally come around to our way of thinking.

More than a year ago we noted that Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Ben Carson all had proposed repealing the IRS deduction for state and local taxes, but Trump was vague on the matter.

Nevada is one of only nine states with no state income tax to deduct.

On Wednesday Trump’s one page tax reform plan called for eliminating all deductions except for home mortgage interest and charitable contributions.

Predictably, the high tax states run by mostly Democrats are whining.

Nevadans — along with residents of New Hampshire, Florida, Wyoming, Texas, South Dakota and Alaska — get to deduct about 1 percent or less of our adjusted gross income, while those who live in New York, Maryland, D.C. and California deduct more than 5 percent. The federal government is effectively subsidizing the spending in those states at the cost the lower tax states.

Using 2010 statistical data from the IRS, you find Californians who filed for state and local income tax deductions claimed deductions of $10,700 per return. Nevadans who filed for the state and local sales tax deduction claimed only $1,430 per return.

Calculated on a per capita basis, Californians claimed $2,116 in federal income tax deductions, while Nevadans claimed only $166 per person for sales tax deductions.

Pro-state-and-local tax deduction groups were quoted as saying, “Any alterations to the deduction would upset the carefully balanced fiscal federalism that has existed since the permanent creation of the federal income tax over 100 years ago.”

It is long past time to upset this unfair tax break. Where do we go to get a rebate for being overtaxed?

 

Does it really take a million acres of national monuments in Nevada to protect a few artifacts?

President Trump’s signing of an executive order calling for a review of the national monument designations made in the past 20 years prompted the local newspaper to drag out the usual suspects to moan and groan about the need to “protect” the million acres of Nevada land that Obama designated as national monuments in his last months in office.

Trump called Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create monuments an “egregious abuse of federal power.”

“We’re very dismayed,” one of the lock-up-the-land advocates told the local paper. “We worked hard on this for 15 years. I think the issue has been decided.”

Largely decided without any input for local officials and residents.

“Today we’re putting the states back in charge,” Trump said Wednesday.

His Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said his agency will recommend which monuments should be lifted or, perhaps, reduced in size. He also said local feedback will be sought.

Before Obama created with a stroke of his pen the 700,000-acre Basin and Range Monument on the Nye and Lincoln border and the 300,000-acre Gold Butte Monument near Mesquite, he might have asked someone to actually read that 1906 law which gives the president the power to declare land off-limits to productive use for the purpose of protecting “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” on public land. The law also says that the designation “shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

Does it take a million acres to protect a few petrogylphs and artifacts?

Though the monuments’ backers say the Antiquities Act grants the president power to create monuments but does not grant the power to rescind previous designations, there is legal precedent that states a presidential right to declare implies a presidential right to rescind.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out earlier this year, “In Myers v. United States (1926), the Supreme Court ruled that the president’s power to appoint officials, with the advice and consent of the Senate, includes the power to unilaterally remove them.”

The court said, “The power of removal is an incident of the power to appoint …”

BLM pix

 

 

Bill would revive licensing of Yucca Mountain for nuke waste storage

Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman threatened to lie down on the tracks to block any rail shipment of nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. “We’re going to do whatever it takes, even if we have to lie down in front of the tracks,” Goodman said.

We hear the train acomin’.

This morning four of Nevada’s Washington delegation members testified during an hours-long hearing on draft legislation that would restart the Yucca Mountain licensing for storage spent nuclear fuel. They all testified against it.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on the environment took no vote on the draft Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, but a number of subcommittee members from states with nuclear power plants seemed more than willing to ship nuke waste to Nevada.

Yucca Mountain entrance (AP pix)

Sen. Dean Heller testified, “Rather than attempting to force this project on the people of Nevada – a state that currently does not have any nuclear power plants of its own – it is clear taxpayers’ dollars would be better spent identifying viable alternatives for the long-term storage of nuclear waste in areas that are willing to house it.”

Rep. Ruben Kihuen — who presents Nye County, where Yucca Mountain is located — called the project a threat to Las Vegas tourism, even though the bill says every effort would be made to avoid shipping the waste through Las Vegas. He added, “Many of you may not know it, but the area around Yucca Mountain is seismically active, and an aquifer runs beneath the proposed repository site. Additionally, placing a large amount of nuclear waste in an unsuitable site like Yucca Mountain could lead to numerous potential health issues. Substandard care or the mere passage of time could lead to leaking and leaching of nuclear material into the aquifer.”

Las Vegas Reps. Dina Titus and Jackie Rosen also testified against the bill.

Despite concerns about shipping, one of the expert witnesses said there have been 5,000 nuke waste shipments without a single incident.

A Texas representative said the amount waste — 70,000 metric tons — is not so large, just the size of a football field stacked 10 feet high or enough to fill two congressional hearing rooms.

But the Nye County Commission had entered into the record a letter supporting Yucca Mountain:

The legislation, which would strengthen the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, addresses many of the concerns brought forth by the state and Nevada’s federal lawmakers, including a provision that specifically says that the waste shall avoid moving through Las Vegas.

Another change for Nevada is the acceptance of benefits, including funding and participation in mitigation discussions, shall not be considered consent and the State can get benefits tied to hosting the nuclear repository. Under the existing law, when the State vetoed the repository it gave up its right to benefits.

The bill also allows Nevada to be the site of an interim storage facility, a change from the original Act.

Yucca Mountain, which is located in Nye County, was designated as the permanent nuclear waste disposal site by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982. Nuclear waste continues to be stored temporarily at various locations around the country while the promise of Yucca Mountain has been delayed too long by political science. To date, $15 billion has been spent to prepare the site to accept nuclear waste.

The Yucca Mountain nuclear repository would bring federal dollars to Nevada, create well-paying science and construction jobs, and improve the state’s infrastructure. The project would also strengthen national security, a role Nye County and Nevada has always taken the lead in through the past eight decades.

The bill includes a “benefits section” envisioning dollars that could flow to the state and the local communities, but the dollar amounts are left blank in the draft. “The acceptance or use of any of the benefits provided under a benefits agreement under this section by the State of Nevada shall not be considered to be an expression of consent, express or implied, to the siting of a repository in such State,” the draft states.

One states’ rights concern is that it removes Nevada’s right to deny water for the project.

But Nevadans should remember that lying down in front of a train greatly increases the chances of getting run over. The bill appears to open paths for negotiation of benefits the state and Nye County.

 

 

 

Jurors not buying into prosecutors’ conspiracy theories

An agreement between two or more persons to engage jointly in an unlawful or criminal act, or an act that is innocent in itself but becomes unlawful when done by the combination of actors. — Legal definition of conspiracy

The feds have a poor batting average of late in proving conspiracy.

In the first trial of two Bunkerville Bundy brothers and others accused of conspiring to illegally occupy a wildlife refuge in Oregon to protest the sentences for father and son ranchers for setting fires, the jury acquitted them all.

In a second trial of four others in the refuge takeover, only two were convicted of conspiracy.

Now, a Las Vegas jury hearing the case against six men accused of conspiracy for showing up armed to protest the behavior of federal land agents rounding up Cliven Bundy’s cattle in April 2014 has refused to convict any of them of the charge of conspiracy. Two men were convicted of other charges and the jury hung on the other four. The judge declared a mistrial.

It took six days for the jurors in the Bunkerville standoff trial to declare themselves hung.

It took six hours for the Oregon jurors to acquit in the first trial there.

According to Oregonlive, the jurors “decided the government hadn’t proven that protesters deliberately conspired to stop federal employees from carrying out their duties through intimidation, threat or force.”

The jurors apparently believed they each acted on their own accord, spontaneously showing up. “The jury kept looking for evidence of an agreement between two or more people to interfere with federal workers at the refuge and found none, said Juror 4, a Marylhurst University business administration student and the only one to speak publicly about the decision,” the news website states.

After the mistrial in Las Vegas the judge set a retrial of those six for June 26, the same date Cliven Bundy and four sons and others were scheduled to be tried for their roles in the Bunkerville cattle roundup protest. Presumably this pushes the Bundy family trial further into the year. Their trial was supposed to start 30 days after the first trial but the judge set June 26 at the request of prosecutors.

Cliven Bundy’s attorney already has accused the judge of violating his constitutional right to a speedy trial due to the June 26 date. Bundy has been jailed since February 2015.

Might the prosecutors be contemplating a superseding indictment without all those conspiracy charges?

Bundy family members read Monday’s jury decisions outside the federal courthouse in Las Vegas. (R-J pix)

 

 

Motto of the Democratic Party: “Ubi est mea?”

Longtime Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko used to gibe that the real motto of his hometown was: “Ubi est mea?” Translation: “Where’s mine?”

Perhaps, that is now the motto of the Democratic Party and its surrogates marching in the streets, booing at town hall meetings and breaking windows and setting fires and beating college professors.

Thanks to morning newspaper columnist Victor Joecks, we’ve now learned that in her speech to the state Legislature in Carson City nearly a week ago Congresswoman Dina Titus listed violent protest in her litany of reactions to the Trump administration.

Joecks quotes her as saying:

“Here at home we see people coming together in ways that we haven’t witnessed in a long time. There are rallies. There are protests. There are neighborhood events. We’ve had a women’s march, a tax march, there’s a science march.

“We’ve seen coverage of raucous town hall meetings and demonstrations on college campuses that have turned violent.

“It’s because people want to know what is going on. They want to know what’s going to happen to the programs that help those who are the most vulnerable, like Meals on Wheels for seniors.”

After a couple of phone calls the columnist finally managed to get a Titus spokesman to say, “She does not consider violent demonstrations to be equivalent (to the other forms of expression she listed).”

But as the video shows, there are a lot of things she wants to spend our money on.

Marching till one falls off the edge of the earth

One of the many March for Science scenes. (AP pix)

March for Science? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

You can march for peace, march for a candidate or march for the exercise, but marching for science is like marching for gravity. Science is. Science is a systematic study of stuff. Marching doesn’t change anything, doesn’t accomplish anything.

And it was just a bit ironic when the AP story on the various marches for science quoted an Earth Day founder as saying the event in Washington was “magical.”

It was also a bit odd that the headline on the story and a cutline used the phrase “march for science,” but the story never did.

Maybe the label was just shortened, because the real purpose seemed to the summed up by one self-identified “scientist,” who was quoted as saying:

“Most people don’t know how much funding for the sciences supports them in their lives every day. Every medical breakthrough, their food, clothing, our cellphones, our computers, all that is science-based. … So if we stop funding scientific discoveries now, in 10 years, whatever we might have had won’t be; we just won’t have it.”

So, it was really a march for science handouts from taxpayers. Never mind that vast majority of scientific breakthroughs throughout history were privately funded.

For a change, President Trump’s comment on the occasion actually made sense. His statement said that “rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”

Settled science. Now there’s another oxymoron.

 

 

 

Editorial: Silly bill would create Public Lands Day

Some people have a really strange concept of “democracy,” and that says a lot about some of the people elected to the Nevada Legislature.

Also, if you thought an earlier proposal to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day as a silly waste of time and paper, wait till you take a gander at Senate Bill 413.

SB413 proposes to designate the last Saturday in September each year as Public Lands Day in Nevada and require the governor to issue a proclamation encouraging the observance of said Public Lands Day.

The resolution accompanying the change in law is a paean to Nevada’s wide open spaces largely controlled by federal bureaucracies headquartered in the Kremlin on the Potomac:

“WHEREAS, More than 80 percent of the public lands in this State are owned by the people of the United States and are managed and controlled by various federal agencies for the benefit of all persons living in the United States; and …

“WHEREAS, All public lands located in this State feature a diverse range of landscapes, deserted mining towns where riches were made and lost, lush oases which stand in sharp contrast to surrounding barren lands, isolated ranches that are sometimes the size of small countries and trees which are thousands of years old; and

“WHEREAS, The public lands in this State reflect many noble democratic ideals because they are open and accessible to all persons, regardless of whether those persons are rich or poor; and …”

Noble democratic ideals? Communal ownership of vast swaths of land lying fallow and largely unproductive is democratic? And it is actually closer to 85 or even 87 percent of Nevada that is federally controlled. Marxism is alive and well and roaming the halls of Carson City.

The resolution then goes on to oppose any effort to release even a single square foot of that communally owned land to the state or private ownership:

“WHEREAS, Efforts to transfer the federal public lands in this State from the people of the United States into state or private control are contrary to the democratic values of the United States and jeopardize activities such as hiking, camping, hunting, fishing and off-road pursuits; and …”

So, there would be no more recreational opportunities if the feds only controlled, say, 70 percent of the state?

Pay no heed to the fact that a report from the Nevada Public Land Management Task Force, which was created by the Nevada Legislature, found that the BLM loses 91 cents an acre on the land it controls, but in the four states that have public trust land revenues amounted to $28.59 per acre. The report estimated that Nevada could net $114 million by taking over just 4 million acres of the BLM’s 48 million acres. Taking over all 48 million acres could net the state more than $1.5 billion — nearly half the annual general fund budget.

It is striking that the sponsors of this praise for and observance of communal ownership are all urban Democrats, save one turncoat independent. Where would these lawmakers be living right now if the federal government had not sold off a few thousand acres of that federal public land over the past decades so those urban areas could grow, adding homes, schools, businesses, parks, roads? Now they want to close the door on those rural communities that would like to annex a few acres for homes and businesses, providing opportunities for their next generations.

When everybody owns something, nobody owns it, and it gets neglected.

This proposal should be deep-sixed, the sooner the better.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Update: On Friday the state Senate approved a bill creating an Indigenous Peoples Day in August, but keeping Columbus Day intact.