a service of the Nevada Policy Research Institute

a service of NPRI

April 13, 2005 
Vol. 1, No. 8

Also in
This Edition:

Nevada's wink-at-the law political class may have out-smarted itself

Foes of taxpayer rights paint false picture of Colorado TABOR protections

Permanent Death Tax repeal passes U.S. House

Ancient proverbs hold lessons for tax reform



Business groups
may cede tax
argument --
for now


Proposed new
ADA rules would
arbe costly
LV Sun

Rising gas prices
fuel concern


Officials spar
over plan to
franchise taxes

LV Sun

leery of UNR master plan


Downtown Vegas: 61-acre Union Park taking shape

New Taxpayer Bill of Rights gets first hearing in Carson

Five state senators are sponsors

Comprehensive protection for Silver State taxpayers on all tax fronts, not just property, was the subject of a hearing in the Nevada Senate this morning.

It was the Nevada Legislature's first hearing on Senate Joint Resolutions 5 and 6, which propose to add to the Nevada Constitution several provisions similar to some in the State of Colorado's Article 10, Section 20.

Widely known as TABOR, an acronym for Taxpayer Bill of Rights, Colorado's Article 10, Section 20 is the nation's strictest limitation on the tax-and-spend approach to government.

While Nevada's SJR 5 and 6 are being described as a 'Nevada TABOR,' they do not exactly duplicate the Colorado approach. To read or download SJR 5, click here, SJR 6, click here; and to read Colorado's TABOR, click here. (This link goes to the website of the Independence Institute, probably the pre-eminent authority on  Tax & Expenditure Limitation measures.)

Primary sponsors of the Nevada proposals are state senators Bob Beers, Barbara Cegavske, Warren Hardy, Sandra Tiffany and Maurice Washington.

'Nevada TABOR'

Beers' PowerPoint presentation


A PowerPoint presentation on the proposals was given Wednesday morning by Sen. Beers. That same presentation is available on the Web at www.nvtabor.com and can be downloaded. The website itself, still under development, is sponsored by Sen. Beers.  

According to SJR 6's official summary, it "Proposes to amend Nevada Constitution to impose certain limitations on amount that Legislature or governing body of governmental entity may appropriate and authorize for expenditure." In what is sure to catch the eye of both proponents and opponents of larger government, the Legislative Counsel Bureau reports, under Fiscal Notes, that the measure would have "No Effect" on local government and "No Effect" on state government.

Another hearing on SJR 5 and SJR 6 is currently scheduled for Friday, April 15. Also scheduled is SJR 9, sponsored by Beers alone. It proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution by establishing new restrictions on the state legislature's ability to spend. To read or down load it, click here.

Have Nevada's wink-at-the law political operators out-smarted themselves?

By Steven Miller

An attorney pointed out to BusinessNevada this week that AB 489, the Nevada Legislature's April Fool's Day 'solution' to out-of-control property taxes, "continues the dangerous precedent of ignoring the Nevada Constitution when it is convenient."

He also noted that the legislation was politically crafted "to take the wind out of the sails of needed tax and spending reform initiatives and to drive a wedge between individual homeowners and businesses in their common cause of limiting taxes and controlling government spending."

But what happens if one puts the two insights together, and then links up both of them with the history of the Nevada property tax issue? It yields lots of evidence that Nevada taxpayers can be sure of two things: While they can't trust the politicians who go to Carson City to obey the law, and can't trust them to keep their tax-restraint promises (see table, below), taxpayers can trust the state's ruling political class to always, incessantly, press for ever-larger shares of private Nevadans' earnings and wealth.

Will voters add up the evidence that way? If they do, it will be big, big trouble for the tax-and-spenders, who'll soon find heavy-duty new tax and expenditure limits on them in the Nevada constitution. Yet it's the strategically clever political operatives themselves who have placed the issues right in front of the public. They did it by consciously choosing legislation widely acknowledged, by candid observers of both left and right, to flout the state's basic charter. To quote State Senator Dina Titus, speaking about AB 489, "I think it's totally unconstitutional."

Increases in Nevada's property tax rate, notwithstanding State's 1981 pledge
County, City average 1981-82 rate 2004-05 rate Percent change
Carson City 1.26 2.70 114%
Clark 2.03 3.08 52%
Las Vegas 2.20 3.30 50%
N. Las Vegas 2.17 3.43 58%
Henderson 1.81 2.95 63%
Douglas 1.51 2.42 60%
Elko 1.29 2.93 127%
Washoe 1.51 3.54 134%
Reno 1.36 3.62 166%
Sparks 1.71 3.66 114%
Data: Nevada Tax Dept, local government 'Red Books'

In short, obsessed with keeping as much of the current sky-high property taxes as politically possible in government hands, legislative leaders in Carson required rank and file lawmakers to join them in casually abandoning one of the indispensable requirement of a free society: the rule of law.

The very source of the Nevada Legislature's own authority to make laws at all is the text of Nevada's fundamental law, the state constitution. Yet, lawmakers in Carson City chose to ignore the limited and conditional source of their own authority and insisted on a "law" that only by strained thimble-rigging can be deemed consistent with the explicit wording of the state's basic charter.

Article 10, Section 1 of the Nevada Constitution mandates explicitly that, “The Legislature shall provide by law for a uniform and equal rate of assessment and taxation.” This requirement -- in many state constitutions beside Nevada's -- reflects the original recognition by America's founders that their new country would not last long if a predatory and short-sighted majority could get together and impose higher taxes on a small, outvoted minority. But that, of course, is precisely what legislative leaders seek to do with AB 489: In counsel's words cited earlier, they seek "to drive a wedge between individual homeowners and businesses," the latter nominated for the role of the small, outvoted minority. But

What the laugh-at-the-law crowd has been relying on, many have explicitly acknowledged, is the supposedly hated status awaiting anyone who chooses to legally challenge their unlawful and morally corrupt handiwork. But note what that point, itself, makes clear: All that matters to these people is whether or not they can get away with it.

That is a remarkable confession to place before law-abiding average citizens. And it is powerful evidence that none of us -- even if in owner-occupied housing -- are safe from these people.

Foes of taxpayer rights
paint false picture of

By Chris Atkins
Staff attorney
The Tax Foundation

The state of Colorado is under assault. Opponents of Colorado’s Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) are waging a well-coordinated but misleading attack on Colorado’s reputation.

This attack takes the form of a number of rankings and statistics that purport to show that the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights has decimated Colorado. These rankings and statistics are based on the assumption that if Colorado ranks poorly on things like the adequacy of prenatal care and education spending, then Colorado is failing to adequately care for and educate its citizens, and that the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights must be to blame.

A closer look at the attacks shows that they fail to prove that the amount a state spends on health care and education determines quality, and they also fail to tell the whole truth about the rankings and statistics of the state of Colorado. [to read or down load the full Fiscal Facts report, click here]

Permanent Death Tax
Repeal Passes the House

Margin increases by nine votes

Washington, DC – The Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act today passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a crushing 110 vote majority – nine votes larger than its margin last year. Voting in favor of the bill were 272 representatives, including 42 Democrats.

“Momentum for death tax repeal is growing,” said Dick Patten, executive director of the American Family Business Institute (AFBI). “More Democrats than ever voted to kill the death tax permanently.”

AFBI runs the No Death Tax website, at http://www.nodeathtax.org .

With passage complete in the House, the fight over permanent repeal of the death tax moves to the Senate. There, only seven Democratic votes are needed to insure passage. Ten Democratic Senators have voted to repeal the death tax in the past but a number of them have switched their positions back and forth.

“We’re going to be pushing the Democrats hard on this,” said Patten. “They’ll either vote for repeal of the death tax or feel the pain back home.”                      

Ninety-two percent of Americans feel it is unfair for government to tax a person’s income while it is being earned and then tax it again after death.

Ancient proverbs hold lessons for tax reform

By Jack Faris
President, NFIB

The Chinese proverb, "Make your plans for the year in the spring, and your plans for the day early in the morning," rings of optimism and hope. But for a majority of American small business owners, spring, with its inevitable April 15 tax deadline, is less a season for planning the future. Rather, it's more of a time of dread.

For two decades, taxes and related issues have been top problems for small firms. According to the NFIB Research Foundation's Small Business Problems and Priorities, taxes and the hassles affiliated with them claimed 13 of the 75 issues deemed problematic. Three of the top 10 rankings included federal taxes on business income, just ahead of property taxes and only three notches above state levies. [more]

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