(Editor's note: This analysis
was originally published in January, 2003. NPRI is currently
working on an update, using more current numbers.)
For the last 15 years
-- escalating sharply in the last two -- Nevada's non-gaming
businesses have been subjected to a prolonged campaign of
The incessant allegation
has been that non-gaming businesses do not pay their "fair
share" of Silver State taxes.
Much of the campaign,
especially lately, has been malicious and demagogic. It has
also been a massive, premeditated diversion from the real
issue of whether any more taxpayer money should be given to
Carson City to spend.
But perhaps the most
amazing aspect of this campaign against Nevada's non-gaming
businesses is how doggedly those conducting the campaign have
scrupulously avoided telling the whole story.
What is that story? That
it is Nevada's non-gaming businesses who pay the great bulk of
state and local taxes!
Consider the following
chart. Its data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S.
Department of Labor's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). More
importantly, it reports the business taxes paid in the state
of Nevada, from 1977 through 2000, by the gaming and
non-gaming sectors of the business community.
According to the BEA,
the business taxes reported in this data include all Nevada
tax liabilities, "such as general sales and property taxes,
that are chargeable to business expense in the calculation of
profit-type incomes and … certain other non-tax liabilities to
government agencies that are treated like taxes," such as
Nevada's heavy regulatory and inspection fees. Also included
in the BEA's figures are Nevada's excise taxes and --
significantly -- state gaming taxes.
It is of course true
that the resort industry in Nevada, by attracting visitors to
the state, is entitled to claim some credit for a certain
additional proportion of state sales tax revenue. But even if
the Nevada Resort Association's somewhat extravagant claims in
this regard were accepted at face value, the chart makes it
very clear that it is non-gaming business people who pay the
great bulk of the Silver State's state and local taxes.
Moreover, as the following alternative representations of the
same data emphasize, the relative contribution of the gaming
and non-gaming sectors has been changing profoundly for many
Percent paid by Gaming
Percent paid by Non-Gaming
What is immensely
interesting -- indeed highly illuminating -- is that, during
this entire public hullabaloo about raising Nevada taxes, the
data revealed in these graphics has never been acknowledged by
anyone in state government, the Governor's Task Force on Tax
Policy, or the Nevada news media.
Now, does that seem
Steven Miller is
policy director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.