Editorial: Coming Legislature likely to favor tax hikes

Ramirez cartoon

“No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” is often attributed to Mark Twain. Though the quote is most likely apocryphal, its veracity is likely to be affirmed when Nevada’s newly elected lawmakers gather in early 2019 in Carson City.

The voters, primarily in the urban counties of Clark and Washoe, have loaded up the Legislature with Democrats — a two-thirds supermajority in the Assembly and one shy of a supermajority in the state Senate. And that seat could swing to the Democrats if a planned recount in a district in Clark County changes the outcome. The Republican candidate won the seat by a razor-thin 28 votes.

That supermajority is significant because it takes two-thirds of each wing of the legislative building to pass any tax increase. This is due to a constitutional amendment known as the Tax Restraint Initiative pushed by former Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons and approved by voters in 1994 and 1996.

Recent legislative sessions have proven that the Democrats are salivating for higher taxes to satiate their public union enablers in state and local governments and the public education system.

To add to the level of jeopardy, Nevada has elected a Democratic governor, former Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who is unlikely to wield a veto pen on any tax hikes that reach his desk. 

In an interview shortly after the election, Sisolak said, “I’ve committed, we’re not going to be raising taxes. That’s not my intent,” saying existing funds could be reallocated. But earlier in the campaign he told an interviewer, “One of the ways we’re going to have to pay for it, and people don’t want to hear it, is property taxes.” He also has a track record of backing tax increases. He was a key backer of spending tax money to build a professional football stadium in Las Vegas for a billionaire team owner.

On top of that, the lieutenant governor, who presides over the Senate and can vote in the case of a tie is Democrat Kate Marshall. Additionally, the state treasurer, controller and attorney general are all Democrats. 

One of the more likely targets will be our property taxes. Currently the state imposes a cap on annual property tax increases — 3 percent for homes and 8 percent for businesses. There has been talk of changing that, as well as eliminating or altering the depreciation on property assessments currently allowed by law. Such changes could cause property taxes to double or even triple in some cases.

Sales taxes hikes, adjustments to the Commerce Tax on businesses, as well as various fees are likely to be on the table.

Democrats are also likely to be open to proposals to allow state public employees to unionize just like local government public workers, who currently are paid 46 percent more than those in the private sector in Nevada — 57 percent more when generous retirement benefits and paid leave are accounted for. Guess who would pay for that.

There is also discussion about ending Nevada’s status as a right-to-work state, which would devastate small businesses.

Additionally, Sisolak and many of the incumbent and newly elected Democrats have expressed a desire to increase the minimum wage incrementally toward $15 and hour, which also would cripple many small businesses and drive some from the state. 

Keep your phones and your pens handy in the coming months. You’ll want to use them to let our representatives in Carson City know what we think of these potential legislative efforts.

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.

Newspaper column: Should each county get a single state senator?

 

Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea is the District 19 incumbent and was not up for re-election this year.

The blue Clark County tail wagged the red Nevada dog in this past week’s election.

Election results show rural and urban Nevada are of two vastly different states of mind.

For example, in the race for the U.S. Senate, Democrat Jacky Rosen carried only Clark and Washoe counties, while Republican incumbent Dean Heller won every other county handily. In the more heavily unionized, redistribution-favoring and thus Democrat-leaning Clark and Washoe, Rosen gleaned 55 and 50 percent of the votes, respectively. Whereas, for example, in Elko County Heller netted 76 percent of the vote, 72 percent in White Pine, 79 percent in Lincoln, 75 percent in Esmeralda, 63 percent in Storey, 72 percent in Churchill, 79 percent in Lincoln and a whopping 84 percent in tiny Eureka. Quite a spectrum shift.

The state’s only Republican representative in Washington now will be Mark Amodei, whose 2nd Congressional District covers the northern half of the state and excludes Clark. Amodei won in every county and his Democratic opponent only came within spitting distance in Washoe and Carson City. Amodei took Elko with 80 percent of the vote, Humboldt with 79 percent and Lander with 82 percent, for example.

Republican Cresent Hardy won in every county in the 4th Congressional District in the southern half of the state except Clark, while the other two Congressional Districts are solely in Clark and were easily won by Democrats.

Democrat Steven Horsford won the 4th District seat by pulling 52 percent of the total vote by netting 56 percent in the more populous Clark. Hardy netted 73 percent of White Pine’s votes, 80 percent of Lincoln’s votes, 74 percent of Lyon’s, 57 percent of Mineral’s and 65 percent of Lyon’s.

In the statewide races for constitutional offices the numbers broke down largely the same.

In the race for governor, Democrat Steve Sisolak won handily in Clark and eked out a victory in Washoe, while Republican Adam Laxalt won almost every other county by at least 2-to-1. The results were similar in the race for lieutenant governor.

Incumbent Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske edged out 30-year-old inexperienced Democrat Nelson Araujo by less than 1 percentage point, though she won handily in ever county except, you guessed it, Clark.

In the race for attorney general, Republican Wes Duncan won in every county, repeat after me, except Clark. Likewise for Republican treasurer candidate Bob Beers, while incumbent Republican Controller Ron Knecht lost only in Clark and Washoe. Again, in mosts cases the margins in rural counties exceeded 2-to-1 for the Republican.

The Democrats in the state Assembly are all from Clark and Washoe. The rest of the state picked Republicans. Due to the overwhelming population of Clark and Washoe, there is now a supermajority of Democrats — 29 out of 42.

The state Senate is also all red except for Clark and Washoe. The 13 Democrats to eight Republicans leaves the Democrats one seat short of a supermajority. That could happen if a planned recount changes the outcome in a district in Clark in which the Republican won by 28 ballots.

It takes a supermajority in both the Assembly and Senate to pass tax increases, thanks to an initiative pushed through by former Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Now, if the Democrats can wail about how unfair it is that the 2016 presidential election was determined by the Electoral College — in which each state gets a vote for each representative in Congress, which is determined by population, and each state gets two votes for each senator no matter population — and not by popular vote, which, yes, Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump won, it seems only fair that we be allowed to deign to suggest that Nevada could change its governing bodies to more closing match the federal system created by the Founders.

We could have an Assembly in which representatives are seated from districts of approximately equal population and a state Senate with a single representative from each county. The whole purpose of the U.S. Senate is to assure smaller states are not run over roughshod by more populous states.

So why should the smaller Nevada counties with differing philosophies and priorities and issues be virtually shut out of the decision making process?

Of course, the chances of that ever happening is almost certainly nil. So, consider this a wee Jeremiadic cry from the desert and a whisper in the ears of the near-supermajority to give some slack for the smaller rural counties. Seems only fair. And we know Democrats are sticklers for fairness.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Historic update from Wikipedia:

In 1919 the Senate started a practice called “Little Federalism,” where each county received one member of the Nevada Senate regardless of population of said county. This set the Senate membership at seventeen which lasted until 1965-1967. The Supreme Court of the United States issued the opinion in Baker v. Carr in 1962 which found that the redistricting of state legislative districts are not a political questions, and thus is justiciable by the federal courts. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Reynolds v. Sims and struck down state senate inequality, basing their decision on the principle of “one person, one vote.” With those two cases being decided on a national level, Nevada Assemblywoman Flora Dungan and Las Vegas resident Clare W. Woodbury, M.D. filed suit in 1965 with the Nevada District Court arguing that Nevada’s Senate districts violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and lacked of fair representation and proportional districts. At the time, less than 8 percent of the population of the State of Nevada controlled more than 50 percent of the Senate. The District Court found that both the Senate and the Assembly apportionment laws were “invidiously discriminatory, being based upon no constitutionally valid policy.[7]” It was ordered that Governor Grant Sawyer call a Special Session to submit a constitutionally valid reapportionment plan.[8] The 11th Special Session lasted from October 25, 1965 through November 13, 1965 and a plan was adopted to increase the size of the Senate from 17 to 20.

Democrats out to help the fat cats in certain ‘blue’ states

Of course, now that Democrats — who have made a career out of demanding soak-the-rich taxes in order to redistribute it to the poor — are in control of the U.S. House of Representatives one their first priorities will be to provide a tax break for the rich — in certain Democrat-controlled states.

According to Forbes, today’s Review-Journal editorial and others, a top priority will be a repeal of the $10,000 cap on IRS deductions for state and local taxes (SALT).

According to  the Tax Policy Center, three-quarters of the benefit of the SALT deduction goes to households making $153,000 or more. The Tax Foundation says 88 percent of the benefits flow to those making more than $100,000 a year.

So it benefits the rich, but just the rich in certain states.

Nevadans — along with residents of New Hampshire, Florida, Wyoming, Texas, South Dakota and Alaska — get to deduct about 1 percent or less of their adjusted gross income, while those who live in New York, Maryland, D.C. and California deduct more than 5 percent.

Nearly one-third of the dollars generated by the SALT cap is borne by Californians and New Yorkers, both heavily Democratic 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.

Tax fairness. Not hardly.

Editorial: Local government unions create huge pay gap

It is good to be a public servant in Nevada, downright lucrative in fact.

The folks at the Nevada Policy Research Institute have crunched the Census data for 2017 and found the median earnings for local government workers in Nevada were 46 percent higher than for those in the private sector — $58,644 for local government workers per year, compared to $40,259 in the private sector. That 46 percent gap is the highest of any state in the nation.

Hawaii and California had the second and third highest gaps.

Nevada local government workers had the fifth highest wages in the country, while private-sector workers came in at a distant 47th.

NPRI is quick to point out that much of the pay disparity is due to differences in experience, education and other factors, but that does not negate the fact the Nevada gap is the highest in the nation. Also, NPRI notes that when Nevada’s local government workers health and retirement benefits and more generous paid leave are factored in the gap with the private sector widens to 57 percent.

For example, both state and local public workers contribute to the Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System. Currently 28 percent of a worker’s salary is contributed to cover the cost of pensions — half from the taxpayers and half from the employee. The figure for police and fire employees is 40 percent to account for often shorter working careers. But many local government unions have collectively bargained to have the taxpayers pick up all of the PERS contributions, effectively adding a hidden cost not seen in salaries alone.

“On a statewide basis, government pay and benefits cost taxpayers roughly $10 billion last year — which was equal to 80 percent of all tax revenue collected by every state and local government agency in Nevada,” notes NPRI policy director Robert Fellner. “Thus, in the event Nevada’s government pay gap continues its upward growth, the resulting tax hikes necessary to sustain such excess may become too great to bear.”

Fellner argues, “Because such outsized pay packages come at the expense of taxpayers who earn much less themselves, elected officials should consider the fairness and sustainability of continually caving in to government unions’ endless demands for even more.”

Unlike state government employees, local government workers in Nevada are largely covered by union contracts. State government workers generally are paid more than those in the private sector, but less than local government employees.

In past legislative sessions, lawmakers have attempted to allow state government workers to unionize, though they should instead take away the right of local government workers to unionize. The unions hold too strong a sway over local elected officials who must bargain with the unions over wages.

None other than the icon of progressivism, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said in a 1937 letter:  “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.”

He went on to add, “The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people …”

Who is the servant and who is the boss?

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.

Newspaper column: Does the 14th Amendment require ‘birthright’ citizenship?

Following up on a stance taken during his election campaign President Donald Trump now says he will sign an executive order ending so-called “birthright” citizenship.

Trump told “Axios on HBO” he wants to “remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born on U.S. soil.”

“How ridiculous, we’re the only country in the world where a person comes in, has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits,” the president was quoted as saying. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

As he did during the campaign Trump could not resist tweaking Nevada’s longtime senior Sen. Harry Reid.

“Harry Reid was right in 1993, before he and the Democrats went insane and started with the Open Borders (which brings massive Crime) ‘stuff.’ Don’t forget the nasty term Anchor Babies. I will keep our Country safe. This case will be settled by the United States Supreme Court!,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

In a 2015 position paper on immigration Trump said, “End birthright citizenship. This remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration. By a 2:1 margin, voters say it’s the wrong policy, including Harry Reid who said ‘no sane country’ would give automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.”

Of course, Reid’s 1993 speech on the floor of the Senate was a rare lapse into rational thought, which he now says was a mistake and argues, “Immigrants are the lifeblood of our nation.” As opposed to citizens?

But in 1993 Reid said, “If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn’t enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant? No sane country would do that, right? Guess again. If you break our laws by entering this country without permission and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship and guarantee access to all public and social services this country provides. Now that’s a lot of services. Is it any wonder that two-thirds of the babies born at taxpayer expense at county run hospitals in Los Angeles are born to illegal alien mothers?”

The argument that children born on U.S. soil are automatically U.S. citizens is loosely grounded in the 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, which says, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States …”

The contention revolves around the phrase about being subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

In testimony before Congress in 2015, John C. Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University and founding director of the Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, explained the origin and meaning of the 14th Amendment citizenship clause.

He said the 1866 Civil Rights Act, from which the 14th Amendment was drafted, says, “All persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States.”

Eastman concludes, “As this formulation makes clear, any child born on U.S. soil to parents who were temporary visitors to this country … remained a citizen or subject of the parents’ home country …”

Some say birthright citizenship is the result of the 1898 Supreme Court case of U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark in which the court ruled 5-4 that a child born in the U.S. of parents of Chinese descent is a citizen by virtue of birth under the 14th Amendment. The Chinese Exclusion Act barred citizenship for the Chinese, though the parents were legal permanent residents. There was no such thing as an illegal immigrant at the time.

In fact, American Indians born on U.S. soil were not deemed citizens until the Indian Citizenship Act was passed in 1924. As columnist Hans von Spakovsky has noted, “There would have been no need to pass such legislation if the 14th Amendment extended citizenship to every person born in America, no matter what the circumstances of their birth, and no matter who their parents are.”

While Trump likely doesn’t have the legal authority to issue an executive order ending birthright citizenship, Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina has said he would introduce legislation to do so.

Either way, there is sure to be litigation all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which does have the authority to settle the matter.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Editorial: Marsy’s Law too vague and too costly

Question 1 on the November ballot — dubbed Marsy’s Law — would amend the Nevada Constitution by removing existing provisions requiring lawmakers to provide statutory rights for crime victims and replacing that with a so-called “Victims’ Bill of Rights.”

The first problem with this is that the U.S. Constitution says that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” In other words, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. So how can there be a “victim” until due process has been applied?

Marsy’s Law is being pushed nationwide by the wealthy family of Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, who was killed in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend. Family members were miffed when they walked into a grocery store and saw the ex-boyfriend, who had been released on bail without their knowledge. Whether bail would have been granted even if they were informed of the hearing is a matter of base conjecture.

The list of 16 rights that would be granted by passage of Question 1 are vague and subject to misinterpretation. They also restrict the constitutional right to confront one’s accusers.

These “rights” include the right to privacy and dignity and freedom from intimidation, harassment and abuse; the right to refuse an interview or deposition request, unless under court order, and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of any such interview; the right to reasonable notice of all public proceedings; the right to be informed, upon request, of the conviction, sentence, place and time of incarceration, or other disposition of the defendant, the scheduled release date of the defendant and the release of or the escape by the defendant from custody; and the right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in any court involving release or sentencing. And many others.

The argument against passage of Question 1 plainly states: “Question 1 is a solution in search of a problem that does not exist. There is no reason to enact this complex, costly and confusing proposal because the Nevada Constitution and state law already guarantee comprehensive victims’ rights. Question 1 removes Nevada’s current constitutional and statutory framework that gives the Legislature the flexibility needed to balance victims’ rights with the efficient and effective functioning of the justice system. Instead, Question 1 imposes an inflexible framework, and any unintended consequences cannot be fixed unless the Nevada Constitution is amended yet again — an uncertain process that typically takes more than three years.”

The fiscal note for Question 1 points out that the amendment would require all money and property collected from a person ordered to pay restitution to first be applied to all victims until they are paid in full, thus depriving the state and local jurisdictions of any assessments, fees, fines, forfeitures and other charges. There is no way to determine what this would cost taxpayers.

Because Marsy’s Law defines a “victim” as any person directly and proximately harmed by the commission of a criminal offense, it is difficult to put a limit on how many people would have to be notified of every hearing and procedure. The cost is incalculable.

The argument against also notes: “Question 1 also includes other vague language that opens the door to lengthy delays, added expense and inconsistent application of the law. Thus, instead of helping victims, Question 1 will make it more difficult for victims to receive justice.”

The proposal also raises serious questions about how it might impact the public’s right to see whether justice is done in our courts. Could Question 1 prevent the release of names of crime victims and crime reports? It does require respect for the victim’s privacy after all.

The current constitutional provisions for victims’right is sufficient and works. We recommend a no vote on Question 1.

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.

Newspaper column: These are the best choices to send to Washington

It is vital for rural Nevada that we send representatives to Washington who will defend us from the encroachment of the federal bureaucracies.

When it comes to the race for the Senate seat, the choice is obvious. Republican Sen. Dean Heller knows rural Nevada and what its residents need to survive and prosper.

His opponent — one-term Democratic representative Jacky Rosen — would modify the Trump tax cuts, block the nomination of conservative judges and justices, bar the use of public lands, push socialized medicine, big government spending and generally side with the radical left that is so entrenched in Washington.

Heller would continue to work to create jobs and improve the economy.

“As a lifelong Nevadan and rancher, I am fighting hard to ensure that Nevadans have access to our public lands for multiple-use purposes such as grazing, economic development, and recreation,” Heller says on his campaign website. “Without a doubt, the federal government owns too much land in the West. Because 87 percent of Nevada’s land is managed by the federal government, I believe Congress should transfer some of our lands to the state and local governments.”

Heller also promises to work to responsibly develop energy resources on public lands to keep fuel prices low.

He also opposes the government takeover of health care, saying, “Now, Obamacare is costing jobs, stifling economic growth in our nation, and the cost of care has increased.”

The Republican senator also has a track record of pushing for border security and immigration reform.

“Big government is not the answer to fixing our economy,” Heller warns. “Congress needs to control wasteful spending and shrink the size of government. Adopting pro-growth policies that expand tax relief across the board and allow Americans to keep more of what they earn will lead to job creation and economic prosperity in the future. Capitalism is the foundation of America’s prosperity. We should embrace these principles, not run from them.”

As for the candidates for the House of Representatives for rural Nevada, Republicans Mark Amodei and Cresent Hardy are the clear choices.

Amodei has represented the 2nd Congressional District in northern Nevada since 2011.

His Democratic opponent Clint Koble opposes selling public land and advocates reinstating ObamaCare and expanding Medicaid. Koble bemoans what he calls a wealth gap and claims the tax cuts have not benefited workers and “its worst provisions should be reversed.” He also favors instant background checks of all gun sales and promotes expensive renewable energy boondoggles.

Amodei is a strong defender of the right to keep and bear arms. He has sponsored bills that encourage economic development in rural counties.

“A significant issue for Nevadans, which dovetails with economic growth, is public land management. I believe that it is possible to leverage our natural resources in an economically and environmentally responsible way,” Amodei relates on his campaign website. “As a member of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I am advancing legislation to strengthen local control over the federal lands, which compromise more than 85 percent of the state. I think that local communities should be able to decide for themselves the best uses for public lands to spur economic growth.”

The congressman was a strong supporter of the tax cuts bill and advocates legislation to undo the worst problems with ObamaCare.

Republican Cresent Hardy is seeking a return to southern Nevada’s 4th Congressional District seat, which he won in 2014 by defeating incumbent Democrat Steven Horsford but lost in 2016 to Democrat Ruben Kihuen, who is not running for re-election after being accused of sexual harassment. Horsford is the Democrat nominee again this year.

Hardy is the clear choice for southern Nevada.

One of the starkest differences between Hardy and Horsford is on health care. Horsford backs ObamaCare and has said he favors transitioning to the socialized medicine proposal known as Medicare-for-all being pushed by socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“Management of healthcare policy at the state level would help to mitigate fraud and abuse, while ensuring that each state develops programs that best suit the needs of their residents,” Hardy says on his campaign website. “A one-size-fits-all approach does not work on an issue as complex as healthcare coverage. Reform is needed. However, the ACA (Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare) is far over-reaching, expensive, and detrimental to our fragile economy.”

Horsford supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, while Hardy opposes it as harmful to small businesses and to younger unskilled workers.

Hardy favors state and local control of public lands, while Horsford opposes this.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.