Senate Republicans cave, help pass largest tax increase in Nevada’s history

Victor Joecks

Even though you knew it was going to happen – the Senate Republican leadership had been wobbly for months – it was still disappointing.

The Legislature passed a $781 million tax increase and delivered it to Gov. Jim Gibbons on Friday, barely meeting a 5 p.m. deadline and setting the stage for Gibbons’ expected veto.

After intense negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, the tax package finally came to a vote in the state Senate late Friday afternoon, winning approval by a 17-4 margin. All 12 Democrats plus five Republicans voted for the bill.

Along with the over $200 million room-tax increase legislators have already passed, that’s a cool billion dollars in tax increases. And every dollar the government takes is a dollar that could have, should have been spent by private individuals and businesses looking to improve their own welfare. All the record tax increase will do is further prolong and deepen the recession. From the RJ:

“A billion-dollar tax increase in a recession is the worst thing we can do for the American and the Nevada people, and most of all for the hard-working families of this state,” Gibbons said. “I intend to veto this bill.”

Exactly. And the sad thing is that even the politicians who voted for the tax increase know it will hurt Nevada’s citizens. Enjoy the hypocrisy revealed by Glenn Cook of the RJ:

“I won’t support tax increases — not when the private sector is losing revenue and losing jobs,” Horsford told the Review-Journal’s editorial board in September.

“The general fund needs to be managed in a way that doesn’t allow growth beyond population growth and inflation.”

Horsford, a Las Vegas Democrat, went on to become the Senate’s majority leader and one of the Legislature’s most important figures in cobbling together the nearly $800 million in tax increases that will allow the state’s general fund to grow by about 10 percent, significantly more than the combined rates of population growth and inflation.

“This is not the time to start talking about raising taxes,” Raggio, the Reno Republican, said last summer during a bruising Republican primary.

“It is something that we can’t even consider.”

Raggio didn’t merely consider raising taxes — he worked tirelessly to deliver the Republican votes needed to provide a constitutionally mandated two-thirds supermajority.

That’s some mandate for tax hikes. The two men who control the Legislature’s upper chamber campaigned in opposition to tax increases and then went about a months-long process of increasing them.

They weren’t alone.

“I really have no appetite for raising taxes,” Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, D-Las Vegas, said during last year’s campaign. “Let’s look at our spending priorities and be like any other household going over its own budget.”

If only households could vote for a bigger budget and the seizure of the money to fund it — like Dondero Loop did.

“I won’t vote for tax increases next session,” Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, said last year. He voted for all of them. Higher sales taxes. Higher payroll taxes. Higher vehicle registration taxes. Higher business license fees.

“There’s no appetite for new taxes,” Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, said before his election last year. Lawmakers got plenty hungry for more of your money, and Aizley was with them in the chow line.

“I don’t see increasing taxes as an option,” Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, said during the campaign. He eventually saw differently.

Assemblyman Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said, “I’m not hearing a lot of interest in raising taxes this session.” Plenty of interest now — especially his.

“I can’t see the people of Nevada being able to afford tax increases,” said Assemblywoman April Mastroluca, D-Henderson. She thinks we can afford it now. She voted for the whole package.

“The economy is the most important issue for my constituents,” Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, said last year. “They are losing their jobs or are afraid of losing their jobs.” Kihuen allayed their fears — and improved his job security at the College of Southern Nevada — by voting for higher taxes…

Among other legislators who opposed tax increases as candidates but voted for them anyway: Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas, and Assembly members Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas; Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas; Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas; and Ellen Spiegel, D-Henderson.

Candidates opposed tax increases last year on the grounds that the economy was too weak to sustain them. The economy has since become even weaker. And now they think tax hikes are OK? The expediency unfolding in Carson City isn’t courage — it’s shameful.