Headlines lay blame

‘He’s a racist’: Beto O’Rourke says President Trump is partly to blame for El Paso mass shooting

 

After Shootings, Democrats Call for Gun Laws, Blame Trump’s Rhetoric

Some Democratic Candidates Seek to Link Shootings to Trump

Cory Booker Says Donald Trump “Is Responsible” For The El Paso Shooting

Harvard Law prof accuses Trump of ‘terrorism,’ calls for impeachment after shootings

Gavin Newsom blames Trump, Republicans for ‘culture of gun violence’ after Gilroy shooting

Castro: Trump ‘made a choice to divide people’ for his ‘political benefit’

Elizabeth Warren Calls For Action Over ‘Gun Violence Epidemic’ After El Paso Walmart Shooting

Bernie Sanders blasts NRA over El Paso shooting

Joe Biden Vows to ‘Beat the NRA’ Following El Paso Shooting

Kamala Harris willing to send cops to people’s homes to confiscate banned firearms

 

Editorial: Nevada should end tax breaks for the select few

For the past decade Nevada’s Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) has doled out billions of dollars worth of tax breaks to select companies in order to entice them to make capital investments here and create jobs. The companies getting the tax breaks include giants such as Tesla Motors, Apple, Amazon, eBay and Switch.

The office has done this despite the fact the state Constitution declares, “The Legislature shall provide by law for a uniform and equal rate of assessment and taxation …” It’s not uniform or equal if a select few get breaks while others don’t.

The tax breaks for the certain favored few also ignores the Constitution’s Gift Clause that states, “The State shall not donate or loan money, or its credit, subscribe to or be, interested in the Stock of any company, association, or corporation, except corporations formed for educational or charitable purposes.” Tax breaks certainly sound like gifts, especially if the companies fail to live up to the promised investments and job creations.

Tesla Motors battery factory near Sparks. (AP pix)

According to a recent analysis by the Reno Gazette-Journal, that is precisely what has been happening.

After poring over GOED records, the newspaper reported that companies getting tax breaks — such as sales tax and use abatements, abatements on personal and modified business taxes, real property tax abatements — delivered only 79 percent of the promised jobs and 27 percent of the promised capital investment. GOED gave up $393 million in future sales and property taxes in exchange for 19,900 jobs and $7.1 billion in capital investments. Only 15,732 jobs were created and $1.9 billion was invested.

The newspaper also noted the tax breaks per job creation varied wildly. For example, Tesla was given nearly $170,000 in tax breaks for each job created, while Apple got $1.6 million per job, Switch got nearly $700,000 per job and eBay got nearly $580,000 per job.

For example, the Reno paper found, “Tesla, by far the highest-profile recipient of state subsidies, has so far fallen about $1 billion short of the capital investment it was once projected to bring to Nevada, according to independent auditors. Work on the company’s sprawling Gigafactory outside Sparks has also provided about 2,200 fewer jobs than economic analysts originally predicted.”

Though Gov. Steve Sisolak vetoed a bill during the past legislative session that would have created an oversight committee to review GOED handouts, the newspaper says the governor recently said he intends to begin to more closely review the agency’s tax abatements. That prompted the agency’s spokesman to tell the newspaper, “Tax incentives are a tool that must be wielded with care, and a review of the current system will ensure they work for all Nevadans going forward. We look forward to working with the governor’s office on reshaping GOED and its priorities so they better fit the current economic landscape.”

According to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, the state has added 38,000 new jobs in the past year — the vast majority of those without any handouts or incentives.

A Cato Institute report in 2018 noted, “Politicians will tend to overuse targeted tax incentives because they create a clientele of voters (the ‘ribbon-cutting’ phenomenon). Broad-based low tax rates do not create a committed political constituency in the same way. But a state-by-state comparison shows that low taxes and other pro-market policies are the best way to grow jobs and economies.”

It is time Nevada jettisoned this constitutionally prohibited practice of unequal tax rates. Treat all fairly and the same.

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.

For our grandchildren: Taxation without representation

The Senate has now passed the so-called budget deal previously approved by the House and President Trump is expected to sign it.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the measure avoids a government shutdown in the fall by suspending the debt ceiling until after the 2020 election and provides more than $2.7 trillion in discretionary spending over the next two years, which means the deficit will grow by $1 trillion a year for the foreseeable future.

Who will pay for today’s spending tomorrow? Our grandchildren, who have no say in the matter. That’s what was called taxation without representation at the time of the Revolution.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said the deal marks the death of the Tea Party movement, according to Fox News.

“Both parties have deserted – have absolutely and utterly deserted – America and show no care and no understanding and no sympathy for the burden of debt they are leaving the taxpayers, the young, the next generation and the future of our country,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “The very underpinnings of our country are being eroded and threatened by this debt.”

Apparently, Republican Rep. Mark Amodei was the only Nevada delegate to vote against this atrocity.

In 2016 Trump promised to wipe out the national debt in eight years.

At least a drunken sailor will sober up eventually.

Costly legal fight over taxes was unnecessary

It was a senseless and futile gesture, but our Democratic lawmakers and governor were just the ones to do it.

Despite the fact Nevada voters in 1994 and 1996 amended the state Constitution to declare “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,” the 21-member state Senate approved the extension of taxes and fees that were supposed to be curbed with a 13-8 vote, one vote short of the constitutionally mandated two-thirds. Gov. Steve Sisolak signed the tax extensions into law.

The eight Republican senators who voted against the tax extensions and three companies that would have to pay the higher taxes have sued in district court in Carson City, asking the court for a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against enactment of the laws.

The Democrats charged ahead with tax and fee extensions after their compliant Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB), the lawmakers’ lawyers, issued an opinion that a two-thirds vote was not necessary since the taxes were not being “raised” but merely allowed to continue at a rate that was scheduled to be reduced, paying no heed to the fact the bills in question “generate” public revenue. Asked nearly the same question in 2011, 2013 and 2015, the LCB said a two-thirds vote was necessary.

When Republicans first threatened to sue, Sisolak confidently stated, “We’ve got legal opinion from LCB that, you know, a simple majority is what’s needed. 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.”

After the suit was actually filed, a somewhat less assured Sisolak was quoted by the press as demurring, “I remain absolutely committed to taking action if necessary following the court’s decision to ensure our schools continue to receive the total amount of funding approved by the Legislature for the … biennium.”

According to the governor’s executive budget at the end of that biennium there is expected to be a rainy day fund balance of $415.2 million, more than enough to cover the $98 million that the extension of the modified business tax rate and the $7 million that the $1 Department of Motor Vehicles technology fee extension are expected to generate.

The modified business tax extension is scheduled to begin being collected on Oct. 1 and the technology fee was set to end on July 1, 2020.

So, what was the point in pushing the constitution-ignoring legislation?

Senate Republican Leader James Settelmeyer said in a statement released to the media after the suit was filed, “We have checks and balances for a reason and eroding the two-thirds requirement is an unprecedented disregard for the constitution and creates a dangerous precedent. While there was ample money to fund education and other vital programs, Sisolak and (Senate Democratic Leader Nicole) Cannizzaro acted recklessly and their behavior created an unnecessary constitutional crisis at the expense of over 23,000 small business in Nevada.”

The lawsuit itself makes abundantly clear the stakes involved here: “This action involves an issue of of significant public and statewide importance as it seeks to uphold and protect the constitutional amendment proposed by citizen ballot initiative adopted and overwhelmingly approved by Nevada voters in 1994 and 1996. As provided in Article 1, Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution, political power is inherent in the people. Government only has power from the consent of the governed, and the residents and citizens of the State of Nevada twice voted strongly in favor of amending the Nevada Constitution to add the two-thirds requirement, and the two-thirds requirement has, at least prior to 2019, been applied consistently to legislative bills extending sunsets by the Nevada Legislature.”

The Republican senators and three companies, of course, are asking for recovery of reasonable attorney fees and costs. So, the taxpayers are likely to get stuck with all the costs from both sides.

The suit further noted that lawmakers “had enough money to fund the State’s budget without the public revenues created, generated or increased as a result of the changes to the payroll tax …”

So the passage with less than two-thirds votes was senseless, and, once the courts correctly rule that a two-thirds vote was constitutionally necessary, it will have been futile.

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.

Nevada Legislature

Editorial: Moving BLM HQ out West is a welcome change

The Interior Department this past week announced that it is moving the headquarters of its Bureau of Land Management (BLM) division out of Washington, D.C., and west to Grand Junction, Colo., as well as moving a number of senior management staffers into 11 Western states, including 50 to Nevada, according to The Associated Press.

While the agency estimates the move could save as much $100 million over the next 20 years due to lower office space costs and lower cost-of-living differentials for federal employees, a more important and significant aspect may be putting the bureaucrats who manage 388,000 square miles of federal public land in 12 Western states closer to the people who are affected by their decisions. Human nature dictates it is harder to look across your desk at a neighbor and say no to a profitable endeavor than it is from 2,000 miles away.

That’s essentially what Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt intimated in a press release announcing the decision, “A meaningful realignment of our operations is not simply about where functions are performed; rather, it is rooted in how changes will better respond to the needs of the American people. Under our proposal, every Western state will gain additional staff resources. This approach will play an invaluable role in serving the American people more efficiently while also advancing the Bureau of Land Management’s multiple-use mission. Shifting critical leadership positions and supporting staff to western states — where an overwhelming majority of federal lands are located — is not only a better management system, it is beneficial to the interest of the American public in these communities, cities, counties, and states.”

In a letter to Congress, Joseph Balash, an assistant secretary of the Interior, said about 300 jobs are to be moved West in the coming year and about 60 positions will remain in Washington to handle budget and policy issues and work with Congress. The BLM already has about 10,000 jobs in the West.

Grand Junction would get less than 30 of the 85 new jobs slated for Colorado, with most of the rest residing in suburban Denver, where the federal government already has a number of regional offices. In addition to Nevada’s 50 new jobs, Utah is to add 45 and Arizona and New Mexico about 40 each. 

Of course some Democrats in Congress oppose the move, which started under former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, because it lessens their sway.

Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement posted on his congressional website, “This administration has been handing over public lands to fossil fuel companies at record speed, and this move is part of that agenda. Putting BLM headquarters down the road from Secretary Bernhardt’s home town just makes it easier for special interests to walk in the door demanding favors without congressional oversight or accountability. The BLM officials based in Washington are here to work directly with Congress and their federal colleagues, and that function is going to take a permanent hit if this move goes forward. The agency will lose a lot of good people because of this move, and I suspect that’s the administration’s real goal here.”

Bernhardt is from Rifle, Colo., about 60 miles east of Grand Junction.

The AP quoted Kathleen Sgamma, president of the oil industry trade group Western Energy Alliance, who had a different take on the question of influence. “The whole focus will be on the West, where it should be,” Sgamma said. “Right now, it’s easy to sit in D.C. and deny a rancher a grazing permit. It’s not so easy when he’s sitting across the table from you.”

In a similar vein, the AP quoted Mike Noel, a rancher and former Utah state lawmaker, as saying, “Having the BLM out here and closer to the ground, we’re going to get better decisions. There’s a different philosophy out here than there is in Washington, D.C.”

As we said, it is harder to say no to your neighbor, and that is a good thing. The move is a welcomed effort to better serve those most impacted by BLM decisions. 

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.

Photo courtesy Visit Grand Junction, shows Rattlesnake Canyon, one of many BLM-administered natural wonders in Colorado’s Grand Valley.

Newspaper column: House $15 minimum wage bill would kill jobs

The House this past week passed a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 and phase out the sub-minimum wage currently allowed for tip earners. The vote was 231-199, largely along party lines.

While all three of Nevada’s Democratic representatives put out statements bragging about voting for the Raise the Wage Act and citing how many people in their districts would be eligible for pay hikes under the law, Republican Mark Amodei, who represents Northern Nevada, warned of the many problems that the bill could create and said the only good thing about it is that it is unlikely to pass in the Senate.

“It makes a good campaign ad in certain neighborhoods, I guess,” Amodei said during a conference call on Friday. He said the bill, while it may raise hourly wages for some by 107 percent, others will lose their jobs entirely or have their hours cut. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that somewhere between 1.3 million and 3.7 million would lose their jobs.

Amodei said the bill is especially problematic for Nevada because a third of the workforce is tipped workers. “In a state that has 45 million-plus people a year who come here for the resort industry … they tip people in the housekeeping industry, they tip people in restaurants, they tip people in casinos,” the congressman noted, adding that the current federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour and the increase to $15 an hour would constitute a 600 percent increase.

“When you say everybody is going to make 15 bucks an hour you’re picking winners and losers,” Amodei said. “Because what do business people do in response to that? They take a look at, first of all they’re going to raise prices, which by the way is kind of that vicious circle — the good news is you’re making more money, the bad news is it costs you more on everything this impacts.”

A Cato Institute analysis in 2012 found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent. Imagine what 107 percent would do.

Amodei also noted that the National Restaurant Association reports that almost two-thirds of restaurant owners, when faced with higher minimum wage requirements, reduce hours for workers, half eliminated jobs and all raised prices. “So the good news is you’re getting 15 bucks and hour, the bad news is you’re not going to work as many hours,” he said.

It is not the job of investigators to ‘exonerate’

Now, where did you read that before?

Oh yes, right here.

On March 25 4THST8 stated: “Attorney General William Barr quotes (Robert) Mueller saying his report “does not exonerate” President Trump. Since when is it the job of a prosecutor to exonerate anyone? Prosecutors charge someone or don’t. Exoneration is up to juries and judges.”

Today Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe asked Mueller about saying Trump was not “exonerated” by his two year investigation, because it was not his job to do so:

The special counsel’s job — nowhere does it say that you are to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or that the Special Counsel report should determine whether or not to exonerate him, it’s not in any of the documents, it’s not in your appointment order, it’s not in the Special Counsel regulations, it’s not in the OLC opinions, it’s not in the Justice manual, and it’s not in the Principles of Federal Prosecution. Nowhere do those words appear together because respectfully it was not the Special Counsel’s job to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or to exonerate him because the bedrock principle of our justice system is a presumption of innocence.