(Jim Clark) – Incline/Crystal Bay residents, of all people, know the tyranny of a taxation system not based on taxpayers’ ability to pay—the real property tax. We know all too well what happens when a rogue county government flaunts Nevada’s Constitutional mandate that “taxes must be uniform and equal” and applies a different and punitive assessment method in Incline/Crystal Bay than in the rest of the county.
When the Village League to Save Incline Assets went to court on our behalf to challenge the illegal assessment methods, they were faced with a conspiracy of county commissioners, staff and district attorneys who dragged the expensive litigation on for years after the Nevada Supreme Court declared the assessment methods unconstitutional in 2006.
And when a judgment was finally rendered against Washoe County for $43 million plus interest, it was a conspiracy of county officials who demanded that agencies for whom taxes had been collected (Washoe School District, IVGID, the fire district) pay interest on the judgment, even though none had any part in the decision to drag the litigation well beyond the 2006 Supreme Court verdict.
Why, then, would anyone ever consider trusting government with the power to levy still another kind of tax that is not based on taxpayers’ ability to pay?
And yet, that’s what the Nevada State Education Association, the teacher union, is proposing with what they call the “Education Initiative” . . . a gross receipts tax proposed for Nevada businesses.
When someone comes up with a new tax concept we should ask: “Is it fair?” and “What is the tax for?”
The answer to the first question is a decided “No!” A tax that could be imposed on a business that is losing money or just breaking even is not only unfair, it will drive businesses from Nevada and scare off prospects for new businesses to settle here. The proposal’s formulae make it very expensive for businesses to administer and report and costly for the state to collect. It unfairly and disproportionately affects different types business and so is not “uniform and equal” as required by Nevada’s Constitution.
The answer to the second question, in the words of Nevada Teacher Union President Lynne Warne, is “to help fund education.” She would like to throw money at what she perceives to be the problem.
But is it?
Between 1960 and 2008, inflation-adjusted per pupil spending in Nevada rose from $3,144 to $9,015, according to the US Department of Education. And what did taxpayers get for their money? Nothing.
Student test scores have remained flat and graduation rates have tanked. Why? Because over 85% of Nevada K-12 spending goes for salaries and benefits. Note that not one penny of this proposed tax would build new schools. They are paid for out of our property taxes.
There is, in fact, an inverse correlation between state per pupil spending and student achievement. According to US Deptartment of Education figures, twelve states spend less per student than Nevada and yet their students perform better.
According to Dr. Matthew Ladner’s Report Card on American Education, improvement in student achievement is directly correlated to education reform measures, specifically school-choice programs, alternative teacher certification, grading schools and teachers based on student performance, open enrollment and strict academic standards.
Fortunately Governor Sandoval and the legislature began implementing many of these measures in 2011. Readers should visit the eLearning Café in Raley’s Center to see how to get the most out of an education dollar.
The teacher union should be a leader in education reform, not trying to sell snake oil in the form of a tax that won’t work to raise money that’s not needed.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates and has served on of the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)