“Bring on higher taxes”????

Geoffrey Lawrence

The lead story in today’s print edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal boasted the provocative title “Bring on higher taxes.” The article refers to a new statewide poll commissioned from Magellan Research by the R-J in conjunction with 8NewsNow and PBS. Poll results supposedly demonstrate statewide support for higher taxes, but this claim is based upon a pyramid of misrepresentations.

For those who have not followed the Great Budget Debate of 2011, many policymakers have overblown the size of the reported budget deficit that the legislature will face next year, ballooning the number to $3 billion. What is often not reported, is that this figure assumes that state government should increase spending by more than $1.5 billion. The new spending, financed through tax dollars taken from struggling Nevadans, would be used, in part, to provide across-the-board pay raises for the privileged class in government. This overblown figure is a direct result of Nevada’s flawed budgeting process and further underscores the need for immediate reform of the budgeting process itself along the lines outlined by NPRI.

To be fair, poll respondents were apparently not informed of the frequent misrepresentation of the state’s fiscal position. It appears they were asked how they would prefer the state respond to a (false) $3 billion shortfall. Even given this false premise, however, respondents overwhelmingly declared a preference for spending reductions at the state level.

Responses to the very first question indicate that Nevadans prefer, by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, spending reductions to tax increases. Respondents selected some form of spending reduction as their first preference in 57.1 percent of cases while only 32.3 percent wanted to “raise taxes and fees for both individuals and corporations.”

Of course, this simple polling result is misconstrued by breaking up the preference for spending reductions into various sub-categories while leaving the tax increase option as a whole for comparison purposes. This manipulation will no doubt allow the state’s leftist advocates to trumpet the poll’s results as support for tax increases. However, the results to this poll are undeniably clear: Nevadans overwhelmingly prefer some form of spending reduction to tax increases.

One can only imagine what the results may have been had respondents been provided with the correct information – that the $3 billion shortfall is a product of lawmakers’ desire to increase spending by more than $1.5 billion. Had respondents been informed of the blatantly disingenuous charade designed to misrepresent lawmakers’ desire for increased spending, it is likely that jaded respondents would have shown an even higher preference for spending reductions.

Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.