Editorial: Keeping taxes low will keep Nevada prosperous

Welcome to Nevada

It is called voting with your feet.

From July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018, Nevada’s population grew by 62,000 people to more than 3 million — a growth rate of 2.09 percent, the fastest in the nation. This included a net migration of 48,000 people 

Many of them came from neighboring California, with its high taxes, high housing costs and burdensome regulations.

So, let that be a lessen to our newly elected Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak and the Democratic majorities in the state Senate and Assembly, which will be in session in a matter of weeks. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, the eight fastest-growing states by population last year were Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Florida, Washington, Colorado and Texas. What do these states have in common? Relatively low taxes and business friendly government policies, a Journal editorial noted. Nevada, Texas, Washington and Florida have no income tax, for example. 

Then there is California. Since 2010, a net 710,000 people have left California for other states.

High-tax states Illinois and Connecticut have actually lost population as people flee.

According to the Tax Foundation’s latest figures, California has the 10th highest state and local tax burden in the nation at $5,842 per capita. This compares to Nevada’s rank of 29nd at $4,099 per capita. It should be noted that three years earlier, prior to some recent Republican-backed tax hikes, Nevada ranked 43rd lowest. 

In an article in The Wall Street Journal in 2009 under the headline, “Soak the Rich, Lose the Rich,” economist Arthur Laffer and WSJ economics writer Stephen Moore updated previous studies and found that from 1998 to 2007, more than 1,100 people every day of the year relocated from the nine highest income-tax states — such as California, New Jersey, New York and Ohio — mostly to the nine tax-haven states with no income tax — including Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Texas.

Laffer and Moore determined that over that period of time the no-income tax states created 89 percent more jobs and had 32 percent faster personal income growth than the high-tax states.

“Dozens of academic studies — old and new — have found clear and irrefutable statistical evidence that high state and local taxes repel jobs and businesses,” Laffer and Moore concluded.

Federalism allows the states to compete for prosperity. Let’s hope our lawmakers take heed and act accordingly.

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.

Editorial: State budget could use some belt tightening

The members of the Nevada Economic Forum met earlier this month and came up with a forecast for how much the total state general fund revenues will be for the next two years.

The Economic Forum was created by lawmakers in 1993. It is responsible for providing forecasts of revenues for each upcoming biennial budget period. The figures are binding on the governor and the Legislature in crafting a budget, so they don’t wildly overestimate potential revenue and cause a budget crisis when funds come up short.

The forum members reported that the past two-year’s revenues turned out to be $8.244 billion and the coming two-year period should generate 7.2 percent more funds or $8.835 billion, after application of all applicable tax credits, of which there are a number.

Outgoing Republican Gov. Brain Sandoval has already drafted a budget for the next biennium, which will be handed over to incoming Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak and the majority Democratic lawmakers, who take office in January. Of course, they all appear to anticipate spending every last dime of that $591 million windfall even though current inflation is running only 2.5 percent.

Much of the anticipated money is being targeted for expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare and various education spending schemes.

After the Economic Forum issued its forecast, Sisolak gave a statement to the press saying, “I am encouraged by how the state is performing. I look forward to reviewing the final forecast released by the Economic Forum and creating a roadmap to implement the priorities that matter to Nevadans. I am committed to building a bright future for our state and that starts with building a budget that funds the initiatives that will get us there.”

May we be so brazen as to suggest that taxpayers might appreciate an “initiative” that lets them keep a bit more of their paychecks. Or at the very least pour more of that anticipated-but-not-guaranteed revenue into the rainy day savings account for that time in the future when the outlook is not so rosy, because everyone knows that once government spends a certain amount of money it expects to continue to do so in perpetuity.

For the record, from 2011 to 2017 the state general fund budget grew by 32.3 percent, while inflation amounted to 7.9 percent.

Though we know we are whistling in the Democratic wind, we also suggest that the burdensome commerce tax passed in 2015 as part of Sandoval’s $1.5 billion tax hike be repealed. The tax was imposed even though the voters in November 2014 rejected a commerce tax at the ballot box by 79 percent to 21 percent. The commerce tax is expected to generate only $445 million in the coming biennium and could be covered by that extra $591 million in the projection.

Every Nevada business must file a commerce tax form with the state, even if the business owes no tax. For many, compliance costs exceed the taxes owed. That is a hidden tax on the state economy and retards job growth.

Lawmakers should think about the burden on taxpayers as well as the beneficiaries of their customarily spendthrift ways.

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.

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.

Judge blocks enforcement of California law requiring abortion advertising by opponents

A federal judge in San Diego on Friday put the final nail in the coffin of a California law intended to require pro-life pregnancy clinics to advertise the state’s abortion services.

The Supreme Court earlier ruled 5-4 in NIFLA v. Becerra that the state law likely violated the First Amendment by compelling speech and remanded the case to the district court for a hearing on the evidence.

The Daily Caller reported:

The FACT Act required clinics licensed by the state to post a bulletin relaying information about abortion access in a “conspicuous place” within the facility. Unlicensed clinics — which provide various support services but do not offer advanced medical care — must disclose that they are not credentialed to practice medicine on site and in all advertisements.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) challenged the law on constitutional grounds, arguing it violated the First Amendment because it forces a private speaker to spread a message with which they disagree.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is running for governor, signed onto to an amicus brief in the case with 21 other states, challenging the law as an unconstitutional burden on free speech. His Democratic opponent Steve Sisolak criticized Laxalt for taking such a stance.

“Informed consent is required specifically so that the patient can assess the risks and consequences of a procedure that a doctor is seeking to perform. …” the amicus brief in question argues. “In contrast, a State’s desire to compel clinics to disseminate information about the availability of state funding for procedures those clinics do not perform has nothing to do with allowing a patient to assess the risks and consequences of a medical procedure about to be performed.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in a concurrence to Clarence Thomas’ majority opinion:

The California Legislature included in its official history the congratulatory statement that the Act was part of California’s legacy of “forward thinking.” But it is not forward thinking to force individuals to “be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view [they] fin[d] unacceptable.” Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U. S. 705, 715 (1977). It is forward thinking to begin by reading the First Amendment as ratified in 1791; to understand the history of authoritarian government as the Founders then knew it; to confirm that history since then shows how relentless authoritarian regimes are in their attempts to stifle free speech; and to carry those lessons onward as we seek to preserve and teach the necessity of freedom of speech for the generations to come. Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties.

After Friday’s ruling, Michael Farris of the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, said, “The outcome of this case affirms the freedom that all Americans have to speak — or not to speak — in accordance with their conscience.”
The court’s have agreed with Laxalt.

Both sides of the national abortion argument, plus free-speech rights, are at the center of Supreme Court case NIFLA v. Becerra. (AP pix).

When you crunch the poll numbers you get something to chew on

Let’s just say the poll that the morning newspaper bannered — the one showing Republicans Dean Heller and Adam Laxalt likely to win their races — is a bit squirrelly.

The highlighted results reported by the paper show that among likely voters incumbent Sen. Heller is beating Democrat Jacky Rosen by 47 percent to 41 percent and governor candidate Laxalt is beating Democrat Steve Sisolak by 46 percent to 41 percent, both outside the margin of error.

First, the poll itself, conducted by Reuters and Ipsos polling in conjunction with the University of Virginia Center for Politics, reports that it interviewed 2,001 adults in English — apparently ignoring those potential voters who primarily speak another language — and 1,137 of those were determined to be likely voters. It said 509 of the likely voters were Republicans, 507 Democrats and 77 independents. Stats for those three categories were used throughout the poll, though they add up to only 1,093, not 1,137. What happened to the others is a mystery.

Further, the poll also shows that among all the 2,001 adults polled 50 percent said they were completely certain to vote by Election Day, while among those 1,137 “likely” voters 79 percent said they were completely certain to vote.

Still further, the Nevada Secretary of State data shows 38.3 percent of currently registered active voters are registered as Democrats and 33.5 percent as Republicans and 28.2 percent as some other party or no party. The poll’s likely voter ratio 46.7 percent Republicans, 46.5 percent Democrats and 7.1 percent “independent.” Not exactly a match to the real world to begin with.

Though the ratio of the “likely” voters polled did not match actual registered voters, the poll did report more Republicans were certain to vote than Democrats — 83 percent vs. 76 percent.

While the paper highlighted the likely voter count, the poll itself found that among all adults — 50 percent of whom say they are completely certain to vote — the outcome shows Heller with 34 percent and Rosen with 35 percent, while Laxalt polled 34 percent and Sisolak 35 percent.

It also could be noted that among the underrepresented “independents” in the poll Rosen out polls Heller 48 percent to 19 percent and Sisolak bests Laxalt 38 percent to 31 percent.

The only poll that counts is Election Day. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

 

 

 

 

 

Newspaper column: Who has the better plan for Nevada’s economic future?

Laxalt and Sisolak (R-J pix)

Plans or platitudes?

That is our choice when it comes to electing the next governor of Nevada.

Republican Adam Laxalt, currently the state’s attorney general, has outlined clear and precise plans for helping grow the economy of the state, while Democrat Steve Sisolak, currently a Clark County commissioner, offers vague platitudes.

“First and foremost, we must recognize that one of the most important things we can do to promote economic growth and opportunity is to protect Nevada’s status as a safe haven from high taxes,” candidate Laxalt says on his campaign website. “Nevada has long been a place where we have recognized that keeping taxes low on our businesses, families and individuals provides them with the economic freedom they need to prosper and get ahead.”

He offers that a low tax burden allows private businesses to innovate, expand and hire more workers. He has specifically called for the repeal of the burdensome and complex commerce tax pushed through the Legislature by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

For his part Sisolak has called for a repeal of the property tax cap that limits annual property tax increases to 3 percent for private residences and 8 percent for commercial property. He also supported increasing room taxes in order to spend $750 million in public money to build a stadium for a billionaire professional football team owner.

Laxalt has opposed raising the minimum wage, which would hurt small businesses’ ability to hire young and low-skilled workers, while Sisolak has supported increasing the minimum wage.

Laxalt supports the Energy Choice Initiative, Question 3 on the November ballot, that would allow businesses and home owners to seek less expensive electricity suppliers, but Sisolak has come out against it.

Laxalt is also calling for reining in Nevada’s burdensome business licensing requirements that are the second-strictest in the nation, second only to California. “Upon taking office, I will propose an immediate freeze on all business license fees at current levels until we can put forward a thorough, open-to-the-public review of the revenue and whether the fees are becoming too disadvantageous and onerous for Nevada’s job-providers, particularly our small businesses,” the Republican candidate proposes.

When it comes to access to public land in Nevada, Sisolak’s platitudinous platform calls for: “Protect Nevada’s natural beauty. Not only does chipping away at our public lands — such as Gold Butte and Great Basin  — damage our environment and communities, it hurts the state’s outdoor tourism economy.”

On the other hand, when President Obama designated the 300,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument, Laxalt put out a press release saying, “Although I am not surprised by the president’s actions, I am deeply disappointed at his last minute attempt to cement his environmental legacy by undermining local control of Nevada’s communities, and damaging our jobs and economy.”

Sisolak wants the government to continue to pick winners and losers as it has with tax breaks and handouts for electric car companies and a football stadium and expand giveaways to small businesses. “Support Nevada’s small businesses with incentives and grants so it’s not just the big companies that benefit from our help,” his website states.

Instead of handouts to a select few, Laxalt calls for creating what he calls a “regulatory sandbox” in Nevada. “Earlier this year, Arizona created the first regulatory sandbox in the United States,” Laxalt explains. “This innovative concept is based on the explicit recognition that financial regulators cannot develop new regulations as quickly as new financial instruments are developed. The sandbox instead gives firms wide latitude to experiment with new products as long as they’re up front with regulators about the risks involved.”

While Sisolak pushes the notion that government knows best, Laxalt understands that government should get out of the way.

“Today, many politicians in our state want to take us in a radical, reckless new direction,” he says. “They believe that bureaucrats, rather than free individuals and entrepreneurs, know best how to create jobs and economic growth. Their vision for Nevada is one with higher taxes, more crippling regulations, and fewer of the choices and opportunities that only liberty can provide. They want to take us away from all that has long made Nevada so unique. They would replace Nevada’s heritage of freedom and opportunity with the failed radicalism of California.”

That sounds like a sound plan.

Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at thomasmnv@yahoo.com. He also blogs at https://4thst8.wordpress.com/.