LAS VEGAS — In response to this morning’s special Legislative Session called by Gov. Brian Sandoval, NPRI Deputy Policy Director Geoffrey Lawrence released the following comments:
Calling a special session to increase taxes, while abandoning education reforms, is the perfect encapsulation of the Nevada Legislature’s work in 2013.
For taxpayers, it's extremely disappointing that Gov. Brian Sandoval would call a special session primarily to ensure that sales-tax rates are raised again in Clark County. At 8.25 percent, Clark County will now have one of the highest sales-tax rates in the Western United States.
The sales-tax hike sought and received by Gov. Sandoval was even greater than what lawmakers in the state Senate had agreed to during the regular session. Senators had agreed to limit the tax hike to four years; Sandoval's proposal makes it permanent.
It is very instructive to remember what happened just months after an initial 0.25 percent sales-tax hike was implemented for “more cops” in 2005: Metro struck a new union contract that hiked pay 21.8 percent across the board. Now, Metro has nearly 900 officers taking home more than $150,000 in total compensation, according to salary data at http://transparentnevada.com.
Further, a legitimate question exists as to whether the so-called “more cops” tax is derived from valid constitutional authority. Article 4, Section 18 of the Nevada Constitution stipulates that any bill “which creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form” must receive two-thirds support from each chamber of the Legislature or receive majority support by a vote of the people. However, while this bill received two-thirds support, it does not actually increase any public revenue — it purports to authorize Clark County commissioners to do so, even though the constitution grants them no such authority. To be valid, the Legislature needed to vote directly on the tax.
Other disappointments from the 2013 regular and special sessions included the failure of Gov. Sandoval and lawmakers to agree on even a small $5 million program that would offer school choice to students from low-income families and a $2 million allocation to hire new teachers in Clark County from the highly successful Teach for America program.
Gov. Sandoval had claimed that these important and needed reforms were priorities for his administration. However, when Democratic leaders in the Legislature stonewalled even these small efforts, he raised no audible protest.
Instead, he rewarded them with a special session to raise taxes.
In short, there are many reasons for taxpayers to be disappointed with the 2013 sessions, and almost no silver linings. Taxpayers can only hope for stronger advocacy following the next election.