Editorial: Here’s another chance to repeal the Commerce Tax

In 2014 Nevada voters rejected by 79 percent to 21 percent a proposed margins tax, effectively an income tax on state businesses. Despite this unequivocal rejection at the ballot box, lawmakers a few short months later passed a similar, though currently somewhat smaller, tax called the Commerce Tax.

The Commerce Tax passed with a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate and was signed by a Republican governor.

In 2016 a group called RIP Commerce Tax filed an initiative petition to place repeal of the Commerce Tax on the 2016 ballot, but the effort stalled when, with only a month left until the deadline for gathering signatures, the courts ruled the wording of the petition failed to sufficiently warn voters that a tax repeal would unbalance the state budget — like that would come as a startling development to anyone.

This past week the same group, this time with a new moniker, Repeal the Commerce Tax, filed another petition, fixing the wording to satisfy the courts, and plans to begin gathering signatures.

The group is still headed by state Controller Ron Knecht, as president, and former Las Vegas City Councilman and state Sen. Bob Beers, as secretary-treasurer.

Knecht noted the group has started its petition drive earlier in order to allow for expected legal challenges. He said their lawyers advised them to use exactly the language the courts told them to use the last time.

“Essentially, we are saying here’s what the Legislature passed, do you all agree?” Knecht said in a recent interview. “Do you want to vote for it or against it. If you vote for it, you get the Commerce Tax. You vote against it, you repeal the Commerce Tax. You have the final word.”

The petition includes the entire text of the Commerce Tax law as well as a 200-word description of effect that mirrors the courts instruction to explain the impact repeal would have on the state budget. “They said use exactly what the two courts said and that’s what we did,” Knecht said. “That should make the description of effect pretty much bullet proof.”

By the time the Nevada Supreme Court ruled in 2015, the RIP Commerce Tax had already gathered 20,000 signatures of the 55,000 needed, but they had only a month left to gather signatures, and those 20,000 were ruled invalid.

Knecht said this time the group has joined with Americans for Prosperity for assistance in gathering signatures.

“It is true we have to gather twice as many signatures this time due to turnout in the two elections,” he noted. Petitioners must collect signatures equal to 10 percent of the total votes cast in the most recent general election in each of the state’s four Congressional Districts.

Because the 2016 election was a presidential one and twice as many votes were cast than in 2014, Knecht said the group must gather 112,000 signatures — 28,000 in each Congressional District — but they plan to gather 160,000 signatures to allow for signers who might not be qualified.

“Once the thing gets onto the ballot, the issue is going to be real simple: One, this is about jobs,” Knecht said. “The Commerce Tax is a job destroyer. Repealing it will be a real help. And, secondly, for all those people who think, oh, this is just about corporate taxes and fleecing the millionaires and billionaires, et cetera. Well, you’re wrong. As economists have proven many times over, business doesn’t pay tax, it collects it from its customers. This is about jobs and the burden on Nevada families and businesses.”

According to the petition’s new description of effect, the Commerce Tax is expected to generate about $102 million in the coming fiscal year, which Knecht noted is only about 1 percent of the state’s total revenues. The description notes that such a shortfall can be offset by cutting spending, drawing down the state rainy day fund, raising other taxes or some combination. Somehow the state managed to survive when the recession axed the state revenues by $536 million from 2008 to 2009.

The Commerce Tax imposes a gross receipts tax on all businesses grossing more than $4 million a year. It has different tax tables for 27 different industries — ranging from a low of 0.056 percent for mining to a high of 0.362 percent for rail transportation in 67 different levels of revenue. Those rates could easily be increased.

We urge Nevadans to sign the petition and to vote to repeal this end run on the state’s constitutional ban on an income tax.

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.

Controller Ron Knecht, left, talks to attorney Craig Mueller during a 2016 court hearing on an effort to repeal the Commerce Tax. (R-J pix)

Bob Beers exits Senate race and newspaper actually covers it

That may be the best coverage Bob Beers’ senatorial campaign has gotten in the local paper in a year and half. Often stories about the race to replace Harry Reid neglect to mention him as a candidate or label him a long shot. But his bailing out of the race apparently warranted a mention inside the Nevada section.

But staffing at the paper must be even tighter than we thought. The byline on the story is columnist John L. Smith, who already writes four or five columns a week. Job security must be a valuable commodity.

The story quotes conservative Republican Beers’ website, where he wrote, “When I announced my candidacy more than a year ago, Harry Reid was actively running for re-election and I was the only Republican office holder in the state with the courage to run against him. His policies were so bad for Nevada, and for America, that I had decided to step up.”

As well as: “My goal was to stop Harry Reid from another term and I have accomplished that goal. The Nevada Republican Party will have no problem recruiting from our deep bench to find someone to run for the open seat and work, hopefully, to reign (sic or a pun?) in Washington. Meanwhile, I will be most effective serving the people of Las Vegas.”

Former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a liberal Democrat who refused to file suit over ObamaCare, has been anointed by Reid to succeed him. Tax hiking Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has bowed out of contention and Republican Rep. Joe Heck is said to be considering a race.

None of the people being talked about as potential candidates are any where near as conservative and fiscally responsible as Beers.

Even though the Beers exit report ran as a news story, it still contained some commentary:

“According to his website, ‘He consistently describes being a councilman as ‘the most fun job I’ve ever had.’”

“But wouldn’t even the long-shot chance to hold a seat in the U.S. Senate have been even more fun?”

beers

 

The invisible U.S. senate candidate

Sandoval not running for Senate seat (R-J file photo)

 

A few years ago I heard former Fort Worth Congressman Jim Wright speak to a convention of newspaper editors. He told of how our influence within our communities might not be all that we thought it was.

Wright said when he first ran for Congress the publisher of his local newspaper, Amon G. Carter, owner of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, refused to even print his name in the paper. He won anyway and Carter was forced to apologize in print.

I was reminded of that anecdote today when Gov. Brian Sandoval announced he is not running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Harry Reid. The online Review-Journal story mentions there is a Democratic candidate for the seat, Catherine Cortez Masto, and mentions others who are running and one who hasn’t ruled it out.

As of 9 a.m., the online posting never mentions the one Republican who has been running since January 2014 — Las Vegas Councilman Bob Beers.

The Reno didn’t bother to write its own story but just posted the AP account. It mentions Beers but dismisses him as a “long shot.”

Which is worse, being dismissed or ignored?

Bob Beers (R-J file photo)

Newspaper column: Democrat candidate would pick up where Reid leaves off

Former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is imminently qualified to step right into the shoes of Sen. Harry Reid. This past week she became the first Democrat to announce her candidacy for Reid’s seat and he immediately endorsed her.

For example, in March 2010, Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons sent Cortez Masto a letter directing her to file suit challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare. She fired back a letter refusing to do so.

She wrote: “The Attorney General is the State’s chief legal officer. Like you I have a responsibility to represent the State’s interests. As such, I must be satisfied in my own professional judgment that the case has merit and should be filed.”

Not exactly.

The Nevada Constitution says: “The Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Controller, Attorney General, and Superintendent of public instruction shall perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law.”

Catherine Cortez Masto (AP photo)

Nevada Revised Statute 228 prescribes: “Whenever the Governor directs or when, in the opinion of the Attorney General, to protect and secure the interest of the State it is necessary that a suit be commenced or defended in any federal or state court, the Attorney General shall commence the action or make the defense.”

The governor directed. She refused.

Another section of NRS 228 reads: “If the Attorney General neglects or refuses to perform any of the duties required of him or her by law, the Attorney General is guilty of a misdemeanor or is subject to removal from office.”

Instead, attorney Mark Hutchison, now the lieutenant governor, was hired pro bono to represent Nevada in the Obamacare litigation. He is touted as a potential Republican candidate for Reid’s seat.

An attorney general who refuses to follow the law is qualified to succeed Reid, who has been known to flout a law or two over the years.

Then there was the criminal indictment by Cortez Masto against then-state Treasurer and later-Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki over alleged mismanagement of a college savings program. No funds were missing but the AG claimed Krolicki was not following state budgeting rules.

A judge dismissed the charges completely and Cortez Masto did not appeal.

While the case was pending an invitation to a fundraiser for a Democratic opponent of Krolicki for lieutenant governor listed a sponsor of the event as Paul Masto, husband of the attorney general. She denied any wrongdoing and the event was canceled.

Nevada State Republican Party Chairman Chris Comfort said at the time, “Catherine Cortez Masto and her friends are so arrogant that they change a few words on an invite and pretend this is no longer about Catherine Cortez Masto. The event is hosted by Catherine’s husband and Catherine’s top donors, and it underscores her personal and partisan crusade to destroy Brian Krolicki.”

Partisanship — another qualification to succeed Reid.

Krolicki also is said to be considering seeking the Republican nomination for Reid’s seat. He was contemplating running against Reid in 2010 before he was indicted.

In announcing her candidacy Cortez Masto also announced her resignation as executive vice chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, a job to which she was appointed only three months ago after being term limited as attorney general.

She was appointed without benefit of a national search to a job that had been vacant for five years and was to be paid a salary of $215,000, far more than her pay as an elected official, even though she had no experience in higher education.

While serving as executive vice chancellor, Cortez Masto testified before a legislative panel against a bill that would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons on college campuses. She testified that guns on campus would have a chilling effect on academic freedom.

Another qualification to succeed Reid, who claims to support the Second Amendment, though he votes consistently to curb those rights.

Even though the Nevada Constitution prohibits the state donating or loaning money to any company, Cortez Masto opined otherwise when the governor and lawmakers wanted to dole out money to various companies through a so-called Catalyst Fund.

On three occasions state officials asked the voters to amend the Constitution to make subsidies to companies legal. It was defeated all three times.

Cortez Masto opined: “The Nevada Constitution does not prohibit the State from disbursing Catalyst Fund money to regional development authorities …”

Some lawyers might call that money laundering. That’s how Reid doles out favors to his cronies, too.

Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers is the only announced Republican candidate for the seat.

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

What makes Cortez Masto qualified to succeed Harry Reid?

Catherine Cortez Masto seeking Democratic nomination to replace Harry Reid in Senate. (R-J file photo)

Former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has become the first Democrat to announce her candidacy for Harry Reid’s Senate seat and Harry has already endorsed her. It was in all the papers, along with everything you need to know about her merits and demerits — well, not quite.

As it turns out, a couple of the people being touted as potential Republican candidates for the seat figure into those demerits.

On March 24, 2010, Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons sent Democrat AG Cortez Masto a letter directing her to file suit challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare. She immediately fired back a letter saying such action would be frivolous and refusing to do so.

She wrote:

“Our state constitution creates the Office of the Attorney General as a separate constitutional officer within the executive branch. The Attorney General is the State’s chief legal officer. Like you I have a responsibility to represent the State’s interests. As such, I must be satisfied in my own professional judgment that the case has merit and should be filed. I also have the responsibility to decide how and when litigation is conducted.”

Well, not exactly. As I wrote at the time, the Nevada Constitution and Nevada Revised Statutes seem to reach a different conclusion as to her authority to refuse the governor’s direct order.

The constitution says:

“The Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Controller, Attorney General, and Superintendent of public instruction shall perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law.”

For the AG, law in NRS 228 states unequivocally:

“Whenever the Governor directs or when, in the opinion of the Attorney General, to protect and secure the interest of the State it is necessary that a suit be commenced or defended in any federal or state court, the Attorney General shall commence the action or make the defense.” (Emphasis added.)

The governor directed. The AG refused.

Another section of NRS 228 reads:

“If the Attorney General neglects or refuses to perform any of the duties required of him or her by law, the Attorney General is guilty of a misdemeanor or is subject to removal from office.” (Again, emphasis added.)

Mark Hutchison

Instead, attorney Mark Hutchison, now the lieutenant governor, was hired pro bono to represent Nevada in the unsuccessful litigation to overturn ObamaCare. He is now being urged to run for Reid’s Senate seat.

An attorney general who refuses to follow the law seems imminently qualified to succeed Harry Reid.

Then there was the criminal indictment by AG Cortez Masto against then-state Treasurer and  later-Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and his chief of staff over alleged mismanagement of a college saving program. No funds were missing but the AG’s office claimed Krolicki was not following state budgeting rules.

A judge dismissed the charges completely and Cortez Masto did not appeal.

But during the prosecution an invitation to a fundraiser for a Democratic opponent of Krolicki for lieutenant governor listed a sponsor of the event as Paul Masto, husband of the attorney general. She denied any wrongdoing and the event was canceled.

Brian Krolicki

Nevada State Republican Party Chairman Chris Comfort said at the time, “Catherine Cortez Masto and her friends are so arrogant that they change a few words on an invite and pretend this is no longer about Catherine Cortez Masto. The event is hosted by Catherine’s husband and Catherine’s top donors, and it underscores her personal and partisan crusade to destroy Brian Krolicki.

“Catherine Cortez Masto’s political stunts continue to erode public trust in her and in the judicial system,” he was quoted as saying.

Another qualification to succeed Harry Reid.

Krolicki also is said to be considering seeking the Republican nomination for Harry Reid’s Senate seat and contemplated a run in 2010.

In announcing her candidacy Cortez Masto also announced her resignation as executive vice chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, a job to which she was appointed only three months ago after being termed out as attorney general.

She was appointed without benefit of a national search to a job that had been vacant for five years and paid a salary of $215,000, far more than her pay as an elected official, even though she had no experience in higher education.

Was it merely a ploy to keep her nose in the public trough until some elective office opened up?

Further showing her liberal bona fides, while serving as executive vice chancellor, Cortez Masto testified before a legislative panel against a bill that would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons on college campuses.

“AB148 is overly broad,” Cortez Masto testified. “This is a solution in search of a problem,” adding that guns on campus would have a chilling effect on academic freedom.

Another qualification to succeed Reid, who claims to support the Second Amendment, while voting consistently to curb those rights.

Even though Article 8, Section 9 of the Nevada Constitution 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,” Cortez Masto opined otherwise when the governor and lawmakers wanted to dole out money to various companies to get them to move operations to Nevada — such as Elon Musk’s SolarCity through a so-called Catalyst Fund. (Billionaire Musk’s Tesla Motors later got more than a billion dollars in tax breaks to build a battery plant near Sparks.)

On three different occasions state officials attempted to get the voters to amend the Constitution make subsidies to companies legal. In 1992, a proposal was nixed by 76.5 percent of the voters. In 1996, 64.8 percent of voters opposed it. By 2000, resistance dwindled to 59.3 percent, but it still failed.

Despite the clear wording of the constitution and the majority of voters, AG Cortez Masto’s opinion on the Catalyst Fund states: “The Nevada Constitution does not prohibit the State from disbursing Catalyst Fund money to regional development authorities that by definition must be local governments, or prohibit local governments from disbursing Catalyst Fund money to companies.”

Some lawyers might call that money laundering. But that’s how Harry doles out favors to his cronies.

 

The only announced Republican candidate for Reid’s seat is Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newspaper column: Who is that Republican already running against Harry Reid?

Bob Beers (R-J file photo)

Speculation has been bubbling in the press about who from the Republican Party might run against long-time Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in 2016. Reid insists he will seek re-election despite his recent injury that may leave him with impaired vision in one eye and the fact he was demoted from Senate majority leader to minority leader when Republicans won a majority in the Senate.

Nevada’s Republican junior Sen. Dean Heller recently was quoted as saying Gov. Brian Sandoval would be an “A-plus” candidate to oppose Reid. The names of other potential Republican opponents have been bandied about by liberal columnists, mostly moderates for some reason.

Few press accounts have noted there already is a declared Republican candidate with statewide name recognition, Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers, who in 2006 finished second in a five-person GOP gubernatorial primary behind Jim Gibbons.

Beers, a 55-year-old CPA, also served in the Assembly from 1998 to 2004 and then served a term in the state Senate. In 2012 he was elected to fill a vacant seat on the Las Vegas City Council and was elected to a four-year term on the council in 2013.

Beers said he was approached by a group of people in 2009 and asked to run for Harry Reid’s seat in 2010, but declined. He said the same people approached him a year ago and he agreed.

Asked what he would do if Sandoval does get in the race, Beers replied, “He’s not going to, but, if he does, we’ll have a primary.”

With the agenda Sandoval brought to Carson City this session, he is not intending on running in a Republican primary, Beers surmised, referring to Sandoval proposing a $1.3 billion increase in general fund spending.

As for his tax hike credentials, Beers was one of the so-called “Mean 15” who blocked Gov. Kenny Guinn’s billion-dollar tax hike in 2003 for the entire regular session and through multiple special sessions until one Assembly member caved in to avoid a constitutional crisis after the Nevada Supreme Court suspended the constitutional requirement that tax hikes must be approved by a two-thirds majority. The court later unanimously repudiated that decision.

In 2006, Beers led a group that gathered more than 150,000 signatures to qualify a Tax and Spending Control (TASC) initiative on the ballot. It would have limited tax increases to inflation and population growth unless approved by the voters. The state Supreme Court kicked it off the ballot on a technicality.

In a far ranging interview prior to a meeting with potential backers in Las Vegas recently, Beers was asked what would make him a better senator than Harry Reid. He quickly replied, “I have economic common sense.”

He amplified by saying, “Spending more than we’ve been taking in for what, 80 years now? Has been done in the name of (John) Maynard Keynes, a World War I-era economist who had some interesting ideas. One of them was that when the economy slows down, it’s OK to borrow, spending that money on public works to get the economy going. That’s the part Senator Reid has relied on in these decades of displaying poor economic common sense.

“That’s also page 1. If you turn to page 2, Mr. Keynes writes, and then when you are out of your economic slowdown, you pay it back. Maynard Keynes in no way would endorse what they’ve done, because it has no basis in economic common sense.”

Asked about efforts by the state to take control of some portion of the 85 percent of land in Nevada currently under the jurisdiction of the federal government, Beers replied, “Bad things happen when you have people from far, far away administering vast tracts of land.”

As an example, he noted that ravens are a protected species under the migratory bird treaty. “Now that they are protected their population has exploded, in no small part because of the availability of tortoise eggs and sage hen eggs, which they like to eat,” he said. Both tortoises and sage grouse are thought to be endangered.

On Reid’s proposal to bar development on nearly a million acres of federal land in Coal and Garden valleys in Lincoln and Nye counties and Gold Butte in Clark County, Beers commented, “I don’t understand why Harry would do that. I agree with (Rep.) Cresent Hardy that it doesn’t make sense to increase Washington’s administrative scope on Nevada public lands.”

A version of this column appears this week in 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.

All I know is what I read in the newspaper, part 2

Does the right hand not know what the left hand is doing?

First, the Las Vegas newspaper’s star columnist, John L. Smith, devotes an entire column to the possibility Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers might push for a voter referendum in June to block public funding for a soccer stadium downtown.

This was followed by a news report about the council voting to fund the stadium, but largely ignored the threat of a referendum, as I so noted at the time, speculating someone might have been miffed at being scooped.

Today the newspaper website has a prominent piece by Smith about Beers being behind a council agenda item an advisory question on the June ballot that would stop the public funding of the stadium. This was posted at 8:27 p.m. Tuesday.

“This has been the most closely divided issue in my time on the council,” Beers said Tuesday evening, according to Smith. “It’s been 4 to 3 for more than a year, although most recently one of the four against became one of the four in favor. It sure seems to me you ought to put the question to the voters.”

The print newspaper today carries not one word of this. Must not be important enough.

Bob Beers (R-J photo)