(Jim Clark) – In last week’s column, I excoriated a majority of Washoe County commissioners for side-stepping a decision about the quality of fire protection services in the Truckee Meadows by placing the issue on the November ballot as an advisory question to voters. Among the reasons for my scorn was the principle that if they aren’t going to make the tough decisions we pay them to make, they shouldn’t cash their paychecks.
Shortly after the column was published, I received an email from the Washoe County Voter Registrar’s Office asking whether I would like to write the argument in opposition to the advisory ballot proposal. Nevada law provides that for any ballot proposition voters must receive with their sample ballots written arguments prepared by some person or persons independent of the proponent both favoring and opposing the measure.
I emailed back: “Is that the ballot question about the quality of fire protection in the Truckee Meadows?” “Oh, no,” came the response. “That’s the other ballot question. I will email this one to you,” she wrote, and promptly did. Here it is:
“Should more funding for essential public services such as senior services, public safety services, and public infrastructure be provided by increasing the Government Service Tax from the current rate of 4% to a maximum of 5% of the depreciated value of a motor vehicle?”
Well, that one slipped through the cracks without a lot of media coverage. County commissioners want to increase our annual vehicle registration fee by 25%, and they want cover from voters by putting the non-binding advisory question on the ballot next November.
For starters, it’s a tax increase proposal, so I oppose it. But ballot arguments are supposed to persuade voters to adopt a particular point of view, so let me try a more reasoned approach. The ballot language talks of “senior services, public safety services and public infrastructure,” but nowhere does it say that monies raised will be actually spent for those purposes.
A few years ago, voters approved a $0.03 increase in the property tax rate dedicated to animal control services; that money has to be sequestered so we ended up with clean, well-staffed and humane animal control facilities on Longley Road in Reno. The vehicle tax increase proposal would raise money for the county general fund, so there is no promise to spend it for any particular purposes.
Here’s another issue. The county budget, as posted on its web site, shows that county revenues are derived primarily from property taxes and sales taxes. The budget projects steadily diminishing proceeds from those sources through June 2014, yet the Reno Gazette Journal reports that Washoe County housing sales are strong and that the median sale price has increased 26% since January 2012; similarly, Washoe County taxable sales have gone from a decrease of 21.5% in 2008-09 to an increase of 6.7% in 2010-12. Now that things are coming back, they want us to pay more every year for our car registrations.
It follows that if you take money from consumers by taxing them you reduce consumer spending, which will impact sales tax receipts so the proposal is senseless.
Don’t our county commissioners care what voters think? I guess not. Two are stepping down this year, two more are termed out in 2014 and the 5th is running for Reno City Council.
Well, readers have now seen the proposal and the arguments in opposition; now all you have to do is vote “no” on it in November.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates and has served on the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)