Polls: Property tax increase contained in SB119 deeply unpopular

For immediate release 
Contact Chantal Lovell, 702-222-0642

CARSON CITY — Three polls released today by the Nevada Policy Research Institute show strong opposition to the property-tax rollover contained in Senate Bill 119.

SB119 contains both a repeal of prevailing wage requirements for public school and university construction and a property tax rollover by authorizing school boards to conduct 10 additional years of bonding without a popular vote. SB119 has passed the Nevada state Senate and is scheduled for a hearing today, Thursday, February 26 in the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs at 8 a.m.

The polls, written by NPRI and conducted by Google Consumer Surveys, each questioned 500 Nevada residents about the property-tax increase portion of SB119.

The first two questions show that Nevadans who had an opinion are, by a 3-to-2 ratio, less likely to vote for elected officials who supported a property tax increase for school construction. Residents were slightly more opposed when asked about a bond rollover compared to identifying the rollover solely as an increase in property taxes.

Are you more of less likely to vote for a lawmaker who votes to increase property taxes through a bond rollover to pay for school constructions?

Much/somewhat more likely: 20.7%

Would not affect my vote: 9.7%

Much/somewhat less likely: 32.3%

Are you more of less likely to vote for a lawmaker who votes to increase property taxes for school construction and repair?

Much/somewhat more likely: 21%

Would not affect my vote: 20.9%

Much/somewhat less likely: 29.3%

The remaining respondents were unsure.

The third question asked Nevadans their opinion on the tax while introducing the nature of SB119, which would not require a popular vote to roll such a bond over. Clark County voters had been assured, in the body of the 1998 ballot question, that the bonding was only for 10 years and that before seeking any rollover, spending proponents would again seek voters’ approval. This history may explain why support plummeted in the third survey, with residents’ opposition approaching a 3-to-1 margin.

Are you more or less likely to vote for a lawmaker who votes to roll over a property-tax rate for school construction and repair without requiring a popular vote?

Much/somewhat more likely: 12.4%

Would not affect my vote: 13.8%

Much/somewhat less likely: 31.1%

In response to the surveys, NPRI Executive Vice President Victor Joecks released the following comments:

As Nevadans have demonstrated at the polls multiple times, voters overwhelmingly oppose property tax increases. Voters are also less likely to vote for lawmakers who support the rollover of a previous property tax increase. Whether the tax increase contained in SB119 is labeled as a rollover or tax increase, the public opposes it by a significant ratio. When informed that SB119 would take away the ability of citizens to vote on a new rollover — breaking a promise to Clark and Washoe county property owners — support plummeted even further.

The elimination of the prevailing wage requirement included in SB119 is excellent public policy and would save taxpayers 10 to 15 percent on construction costs, by allowing government to pay market rates instead of union wage rates.

The problem with SB119 is that the primary savings would come from spending new tax dollars more efficiently, not more efficiently spending the tax dollars we currently pay.

For lawmakers interested in a proposal that would result in the elimination prevailing wage, while still respecting the ability of voters to vote on property-tax rollovers, Joecks proposed a compromise.

Since removal of the prevailing wage will save 10 to 15 percent in construction costs, a compromise that would be a win for taxpayers would be eliminating prevailing wage requirements in exchange for authorizing two additional years of bonding. This would allow the affected school districts to begin building immediately — their stated priority — while still allowing voters to decide in 2016 if they want their property taxes extended further to finance more school construction.

A conceptual amendment that NPRI also suggested would prevent any future use or extension of a property tax rate previously used by a school district for general obligation bonds without a popular vote.

The surveys were conducted from February 2 to 5, 2015, and have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent. A white paper with more information on Google Consumer Surveys is available here.

More information:

School bond survey 1: http://www.npri.org/docLib/20150226_Schoolbondsurvey1.pdf

School bond survey 2: http://www.npri.org/docLib/20150226_Schoolbondsurvey2.pdf

School bond survey 3: http://www.npri.org/docLib/20150226_Schoolbondsurvey3.pdf

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