A recent Las Vegas Sun op/ed entitled “Anti-Tax a Lonely Stance” deserves a spirited response, so here goes.
Let’s start with the sub-headline which read, “READY TO PAY: Many business leaders concede that cutting the state budget alone won’t bridge the gap between revenue and expenses.” The number of the “many” business leaders listed in the column? One. (Jan Jones, a partisan Democrat gaming executive, doesn’t count. More on that later.)
And I also have to call into question the use of the word “concede” as used here.
Concede means to accept something to be true. But in this matter, we’re not talking about an established fact, but the Sun’s opinion on the raise taxes/cut spending issue. The Sun’s sub-head, to be more accurate, should have read, “SOME business leaders BELIEVE that cutting the state budget alone…”
Indeed, in a couple weeks Gov. Sandoval has promised to submit a state budget that will cut current spending rather than raise taxes. At that point, those “many” business leaders will have to “concede” that cutting the state budget alone can bridge the gap between revenue and expenses. They may not like or agree with the cuts, but they’ll no longer be able to say it can’t be done.
The False Crutch of “Underfunded” Public Education
To buttress the Sun’s claim, the op/ed then went on to quote developer Rich Worthington of the Molasky Group. Worthington claims that furniture retailer IKEA and Internet provider Earthlink opted not to move into Nevada because of “a lack of college graduates,” and says “the state must raise taxes to protect its education system.” In other words, a self-interested, pre-ordained conclusion.
This is interesting for a couple of reasons.
First, there are plenty of successfully operating furniture retailers currently operating in Nevada, so this hardly sounds like a legitimate, determinative objection on IKEA’s part. As for Earthlink, they reportedly were considering moving a call center here from California; however, in light of Zappos.com’s recent announcement that they were expanding there operations here, one has to wonder if the college graduate excuse was really determinative for Earthlink, as well.
Something tells me there’s more to this story than Rich Worthington is telling us, just as there’s always something more to those incredibly low-priced cars from namesake “Cal Worthington and his dog Spot!”
Secondly, if you concede for argument’s sake that there is a lack of college graduates in Nevada, it’s a stretch of monumental proportions to then move to the conclusion that the answer is raising taxes.
If we’re talking quantity of college graduates, the simple fact is we have only two taxpayer-subsidized universities in Nevada because we’re a small state. That’s just a reality. Raising taxes won’t boost our population.
If we’re talking about the number of students who enter college but don’t graduate, that’s more a reflection on the fact that our public elementary, middle and high schools are cranking out “graduates” who must take remedial courses when they get to the university level and cut it. That’s an indictment on our secondary schools, not an argument for raising taxes.
And if we’re talking about the number of students who can afford to go to college, I believe the tuition to attend a Nevada higher learning institution is among the lowest in the land – and that’s not even counting the hefty amount of financial assistance good Nevada students receive via the Guinn Millennium Scholarships.
The fact is Nevada presently spends more than half of its general fund budget on education. To suggest that we don’t take education seriously in this state is bunk.
Our problem isn’t that we’re not spending enough money, but what we’re spending the money on and how we’re spending it. Why is our public “education” system still funding mariachi classes in high school? And why aren’t we empowering parents with the ability and means to send their children to the school they choose, public or private, rather than forcing them to send their kids to the nearest public school in the neighborhood no matter how bad that school is?
But let’s move on to this tax hike issue.
No Man is an Island – Especially on No-New-Taxes Island
“With his no-new-tax pledge,” the Sun op/ed declared, “(Gov. Brian) Sandoval increasingly finds himself on a no-new-tax island with only a small cadre of conservatives.”
With all due respect, this statement is just short of propaganda.
The fact is, Gov. Sandoval’s Democrat opponent ran on the same no-new-taxes platform. It’s also a fact that an overwhelming majority of Nevada’s voters – close to 400,000; more than three times the population of the island of Maui – voted for the man they believed would actually keep his no-new-taxes promise.
The reality is that if you really want to talk about an island with a small population on this issue, it’d have to be named the Island of Misfit Liberals with a population total closer to that of the island of Molokai, the leper island (around 7,000 people).
As for the Sun’s claim that “Republican leadership in the Assembly and Senate are on record saying they believe taxes passed in 2009, and set to expire in 2011, will have to be extended,” I’m not sure that’s true either.
First, I believe the statement refers to former Republican Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, with emphasis on the word “former.” And as we all know, Sen. Raggio was voted off the conservative no-new-taxes island from his leadership position after the November election in part because of his past support for higher taxes. His statements can no longer be characterized as “leadership” statements since he’s no longer the caucus leader.
As for Republican Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, I’ve never heard him declare in any of our caucus meetings that the sunsetted taxes must be extended. If, however, he has said so elsewhere, I can assure you he isn’t speaking for the entire GOP caucus, of which I’m a member.
The Sun’s op/ed does succeed in finally getting incoming Democrat Speaker John Oceguera on record on the tax hike issue – conveniently now that the election is over. “At the end of the day,” the Democrat leader is quoted as saying, “there’s probably going to be a need for revenue.”
Note, however and for the record, that even this government-employee/union boss uses the qualifying word “probably.” In other words, even Speaker Oceguera hasn’t yet conceded that tax hikes are a certainty. Indeed, at the end of the day next June, we might even find the Speaker with us on Maui rather than with Rich Worthington on Molokai.
The Tax-Hiking Devil and Miss Jones
Which brings us full circle back to the former Las Vegas mayor who is currently doing government affairs lobbying work for Caesar’s Entertainment.
According to the op/ed, Jan Jones “said a broad group of gaming and business leaders thinks improving the education system ‘is in the long term interest of the state’s economic health.’”
First, that’s certainly true. Improving our education system is certainly in the long term interest of Nevada’s economic health. But that’s not the same as saying raising taxes and dumping more money into the current system is the answer. It’s not.
In addition, Ms. Jones is hardly an objective source for a story claiming there’s a lonely island of anti-tax conservatives in Nevada. Jones is, after all, a partisan former Democratic National Committeewoman whose employer, at this very minute, is pushing for a massive new tax hike in southern Nevada. Not for education, mind you, but to subsidize the construction of….wait for it…a new sports arena.
Irony or hypocrisy. You make the call.
“We are concerned about the governor’s perceived position to not consider a broad-based business tax,” Jones went on to tell the Sun. “Anyone who thinks we can move forward in this state without implementing a broad-based business tax is failing to lead and deluding themselves to the reality of our economic situation.”
Now, my memory is a little foggy here, but I don’t recall Ms. Jones running for governor in 1998 on a platform of imposing a broad-based business tax. But if she did, let the record show that lost her race for governor that year.
I guess the alleged large number of pro-tax-hike business leaders and voters who agree with Ms. Jones is actually smaller than the “small cadre of conservatives” who overwhelmingly elected Brian Sandoval to the position Jan Jones coveted but lost a dozen years earlier. So who’s really deluding themselves here?
The bottom line for some misguided “business leaders” and unreconstituted tax-and-spend “progressives” who think the state needs more revenue I will close by pointing out that there’s absolutely nothing stopping them from voluntarily contributing additional money to the state’s general fund. There’s also no reason why they can’t voluntarily donate additional funding to the local public school(s) to their heart’s desire.
And while I certainly respect the Sun’s right to its opinion that we need to raise taxes, it’s far more than a “small cadre of conservatives” who disagree with that opinion and stand with Gov. Sandoval, myself included.
See you on Maui!
(Assemblyman Goedhart represents Assembly District 36, a rural district generally covering southern and middle Nevada.)