Today’s ruling by the Nevada Supreme Court striking down a pair of illegally passed tax hikes is good news for those who believe that government should be accountable to the people, rather than merely ruling over them.
“Today, the state’s highest court reminded lawmakers that the constitution’s words actually have meaning,” said Nevada Policy Vice President & Director of Policy Robert Fellner.
After successive landslide votes in 1994 and 1996, Nevadans amended the state constitution to require a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of the Legislature to pass any bill “which creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form.”
The Democrat-controlled Legislature and Governor Steve Sisolak ignored this mandate, however, when in 2019 they passed a pair of bills that prevented the expiration of one tax and the scheduled decline of another.
Those in favor of the tax hike laughably claimed that extending a tax set to expire is not an “increase,” as Nevadans are still paying the same dollar amount in taxes.
“Because the concept of time exists, this argument was utterly absurd on its face,” explained Fellner.
“That same line of reasoning would justify a bank extending your mortgage payment for an additional 100 years, while claiming that doing so was not a cost increase simply because the monthly payment amount remained the same.”
This case highlights how hopeless it is to expect government actors to abide by the constitutional rules on their own accord, argued Fellner.
“Ultimately, the rules we put in place for government only work when citizens and the judiciary are willing to ensure they are enforced. And because a government that can ignore constitutional limits with impunity is necessarily illegitimate, this ruling could hardly be more critical.”
Thankfully, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld the plain text of the constitution and, in so doing, helped to ensure that Nevadans have a government that is truly “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”