(Chuck Muth, Citizen Outreach) – I’ve been hearing rumblings that a major exodus of businesses from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce has been going on ever since the Chamber bent over and supported Gov. Brian Sandoval’s largest tax hike in Nevada history in the recently concluded 2015 legislative session.
I’m also hearing the exodus is far from petering out and instead is picking up steam.
In fact, one source tells me the Chamber may have bled more than 300 members in the 60 days following the end of the session, taking it down to under 3,000 total members – and that’s with Roberto’s Taco Shops accounting for over 40 separate memberships alone.
Among the notables rumored to have torn up their Chamber membership cards: AAA, Fleming’s Prime Steak House, Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, McDonald’s Owner/Operator Association, Harmony Homes, The Jockey Club, Kids R Us, Las Vegas Color Graphics, Molly Maid, Mr. Pool & Mrs. Patio and Rebel Party Rentals.
And in case there’s any doubt that the main reason for the membership drain is the $1.4 billion tax hike and not normal attrition, here’s one example of a resignation letter that was forwarded to me just this week…
I regret to inform you that Polar Shades will be canceling our membership for Henderson/Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. After reviewing the Chamber’s stance on the Gross Margins Tax signed by Governor Sandoval on small business, I can no longer endorse the Chamber of Commerce. – Steve Mevius, Polar Shades Sun Control
That was short and sweet and to the point.
But the following mamma-jamma really laid out the Chamber for its go-along-to-get-along, bend-over-and-take-it-like-a-man government affairs actions in the 2015 legislative session…
Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce
575 Symphony Park Ave., Ste. 100
Las Vegas, NV 89106
Re: Letter of Resignation and Disassociation
Dear Las Vegas Metro Chamber:
InCorp Services has been a member of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber since 2002. In 2014, you awarded InCorp with your Business Excellence Award in recognition of our company culture. InCorp has remained loyal to your organization because we believed you were fighting to protect small businesses like ours from the predatory efforts of the tax-and-spend special interests in Nevada, however the Chamber’s “performance” during this past legislative session was outrageous! Not only did you fail to oppose the largest new tax on businesses in the state’s history, but you actually lobbied and testified in favor of this monstrosity using the membership dues we supported you with.
To make matters worse, the tax plan put forth by the governor, supported by you, and eventually signed into law was identical to the margin tax proposal that we all worked so diligently to defeat on the ballot last year. It is a slap in the face to now be hit with this tax after the voters rejected it 4 to 1!
Thanks to the Las Vegas Metro Chamber, our company must pay this tax whether we make money or not. Thanks to the Chamber, we must pay even higher corporate filing fees even though they had already increased over 100% in just the past few years and were already the 3rd highest in the nation. Thanks to the Chamber, we must pay our accountant substantially more to keep a separate set of books with a June 30 fiscal year end. Thanks to the Chamber, even companies that don’t owe the tax have to file a tax return to the State of Nevada every year to prove it. Thanks to the Chamber, our already high job penalizing MBT taxes have increased in an economy we are still struggling to recover from. Did the Chamber forget all the many problems associated with this tax proposal that you highlighted last November?
For the last seven years or so our company has struggled in our efforts to bring companies to Nevada not because we don’t have an “educated workforce”, but because the economic development boards in other states advertised loudly to companies considering Nevada that there were powerful interests here pushing for a gross receipts tax. When Question 3 was defeated four to one, this rumor was finally put to rest and a strong message was sent to businesses considering Nevada that there was no appetite for such a tax here. After the defeat we saw instant momentum with companies wishing to relocate or expand in Nevada. We signed a lease for greatly expanded office space at Hughes Center to accommodate the new employees required to accommodate the needs of these businesses. Now, instead of expanding to 150 employees in Nevada, our company which has been repeatedly recognized as one of the “best places to work” is downsizing to no more than 15 employees
At first I thought it was admirable that the Chamber had hired the Tax Foundation to perform an objective analysis and show all the problems associated with Sandoval’s tax proposal. But I find it repulsive that Chamber officials would become so eager to fire the Tax Foundation and distance themselves from any criticism of the tax just because the governor didn’t like it. I believed it was the Chamber’s job to fight against punitive business taxes and not to cower and bend over before elected officials… I was apparently wrong.
In light of this embarrassment, our company can no longer support your organization. Please consider this letter our official resignation and remove us from your membership rolls, from your website membership listing, and when citing your membership numbers which you already exaggerated by almost 50% when testifying before the legislature, do not include our business in your totals.
InCorp Services, Inc.
Wow. Just wow.
I sure hope no one publishes that letter on the Internet somewhere where the remaining 3,000 or so Chamber members can read it! (Oops)
Let’s face it…
For many years now, the Chamber has been more interested being invited to sit at the Big Kids table in Carson City where its lobbyists could rub shoulders and play footsies with elected officials and other political power brokers than fighting for the interests of the vast majority of their small business members.
It’s been willing to lie down and take a $1 tax hike as long as it wasn’t a $2 tax hike rather than fight against ANY tax hikes.
And rather than be aggressive and vocal champions of small business, the Chamber has played their small biz members as chumps – going out of its way to “spin” them that black is white and night is day.
And rather than support true pro-business/free-market candidates, it has often backed candidates who are, in reality, hostile to business for no reason other than to curry favor and ensure “access” in the halls of the Legislature.
DISCLAIMER: For the record, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce endorsed anti-business then-State Sen. Dina Titus – a liberal university teacher – over me, a small businessman at the time, in our 1996 state senate race.
And while that was the only real surprise and disappointment to me in that entire campaign, I’ve been long over it. My antipathy towards the Chamber goes far deeper than one legislative race almost 20 years ago. They’ve made FAR worse decisions since then.
In any event, with the disaster that was the 2015 legislative session it appears the jig is up for the Chamber.
It has been a tool of the EEE – Elite Elected Establishment. A paper tiger.
And if the exodus continues, this once-influential organization that has boasted a membership in excess of five thousand could find itself lucky to have 500 left by the time the 2017 session convenes.
And that’s only if Roberto’s Taco Shops stick with them.
It’ll be a membership disaster hard earned and well deserved after so many years of going along to get along.
So let it be written; so let it be done.
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach and the publisher of www.NevadaNewsandViews.com. He personally blogs at www.MuthsTruths.com.