Editorial: File suit to uphold two-thirds vote requirement for taxes

So, the governor is confident that the extension of the modified business tax rate will withstand a legal challenge, according to the Las Vegas newspaper.

“We’ve got legal opinion from LCB (Legislative Counsel Bureau) that, you know, a simple majority is what’s needed,” Gov. Steve Sisolak was quoted as saying this past week. “I’ve been in government for 20 some-odd years, and if you don’t trust your attorneys, you’ve got a problem. So I’m confident that the attorneys gave us a good opinion. We’ll move forward from there.”

Be prepared to move back, governor, by nearly $100 million in your budget for the next two years — the budget that promises 5 percent raises for teachers.

Republicans have promised a legal challenge if the business tax were extended without a two-thirds majority of both houses as prescribed by the Constitution. The tax extension passed the Senate on a party line vote of 13-8, one vote shy of two-thirds.

Voters in 1994 and 1996 amended the Nevada Constitution to state “an affirmative vote of not fewer than two-thirds of the members elected to each House is necessary to pass a bill or joint resolution which creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form, including but not limited to taxes, fees, assessments and rates, or changes in the computation bases for taxes, fees, assessments and rates.”

The modified business tax passed in 2015 by a two-thirds vote of lawmakers contained specific language saying the rates would be reduced in 2019 if tax revenues exceeded a certain level, which they have.

But the compliant LCB told the majority Democratic lawmakers and the Democratic governor, “It is the opinion of this office that Nevada’s two-thirds majority requirement does not apply to a bill which extends until a later date or revises or eliminates a future decrease in or future expiration of existing state taxes when that future decrease or expiration is not legally operative and binding yet, because such a bill does not change but maintains the existing computation bases currently in effect for the existing state taxes.”

The bill clearly “generates” revenue that two-thirds of the lawmakers in 2015 said would decrease as of July 1, 2019.

The state Constitution is not something to tamper with. Republicans should take it to court and make the Democrats abide by the rules, even if it means a special session would have to called. In fact, the GOP lawmakers should go directly to the state Supreme Court for an opinion that would be binding, unlike the LCB opinion “that future decrease or expiration is not legally operative and binding yet …”

Asked nearly the same question in 2011, 2013 and 2015, the LCB said a two-thirds vote was necessary. So, governor, when do you trust your attorneys? Now or then?

Republican lawmakers should join forces with those who will be paying the tax — Nevada businesses — and sue at the earliest possible convenience to defend the state Constitution. Randi Thompson, a lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business, has told the Las Vegas newspaper the organization is looking at the option of filing suit. Perhaps, the conservative Nevada Policy Research Institute can join the fray. The more the merrier.

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.

Gov. State Sisolak, right, talks to reporters. (R-J pix)

10 comments on “Editorial: File suit to uphold two-thirds vote requirement for taxes

  1. Bruce Feher says:

    This would require that the GOP grow a set, I have every confidence they won’t.

  2. Concerned says:

    “Republican lawmakers” let’s hope that they all will be strong in conservative values and not just roll over as they are often wont to do.

  3. Steve says:

    No matter whether one agrees or disagrees with this “extension”, this issues needs to be settled once and for all. So called “sunset taxes” are nothing more than a gimmick to get public support for a tax that (in reality) will never go away.
    I bet the docs are already prepped and the suit will be filed within days. If it’s not, then it’s a clear message R’s don’t give a whit about accountability and there is no point in supporting any Republican ever again.
    We need ANOTHER amendment. Make proposed taxes permanent and removable ONLY by full repeal.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Whatever the courts say, and whatever the republicans do, the democratic governor should simply take the position of the current president and…ignore it.

    Precedent has been repeatedly established at the federal level in the last 2 years that if the executive wants to do it, then they get to.

  5. Anonymous says:

    And hopefully this angers those on the right so that the folks on the left can laugh, or call them snowflakes, or tell them that, unlike other governors, this one won’t play by “their” (insert some weird guys name that people have never heard of before and attach it to folks on the right as if it is some guiding principle of their movement) rules anymore, and conclude with something like “ownin the cons”.

  6. Rincon says:

    Republican definition of sound fiscal management: Spend the money and push the bill onto the kids.

  7. Anonymous says:

    If the D’s are allowed to circumvent the NV Constitution, nothing will be sacred. Sisolak already kept a campaign promise to teachers by getting them a raise, but he left it up to D Legislators to find the funding, and they failed, putting Superintendent Jara in a tough spot. He can’t fire teachers, so he gets rid of Deans in Jr. and Sr. High. That only gives Jara a couple million in salary and benefits. Where is the other $55 million CCSD needs? Sisolak promised to get teachers a raise in exchange for their votes. Mission accomplished. The Legislature failed to find the funding, even bypassing the marijuana sales tax that was supposed to go to education. It’s now being used to fund other programs. As usual, the public is sold a bill of goods.

  8. Bill says:

    LCB ‘compliant’ in giving an opinion to the D controlled Legislature that permitted the D Governor’s promise of a raise to teachers to be fulfilled by ignoring the 2/3 vote requirement for taxes? I am shocked. Teachers who are on the front lines undoubtedly deserve a raise but the educational system, with its bureaucracy and mismanagement needs to reform its entire delivery system.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Are we more shocked that the LCB was “compliant” in giving the opinion that permitted the D governor to ignore the 2/3 vote requirement for taxes, or the DOJ’s opinion that the IRS does not need to release the taxes for the putative R president despite the language in the regulation requiring it if asked?

    I’m MORE shocked.

    And let’s hope, that the D’s, follow this precedent because “this” D don’t need to play by “their” (insert irrelevant name of guy no one has heard of here) rules no more. Owning cons…

  10. […] the spring legislative session the LCB — after stating otherwise in 2011, 2013 and 2015 — opined that a two-thirds vote was unnecessary if a bill delayed a scheduled reduction in tax rates — in this case the modified business tax. […]

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