Nevada’s future is at stake

Stakeholder group is simply meant to give cover for raising taxes

By Geoffrey Lawrence
  • Monday, November 23, 2009

In their un-ending war against the citizens of this state, autocratic lawmakers have concocted a devious new plan for extracting even more wealth from private families and individuals. 

Even now — out of session and amid dire economic recession — lawmakers are plotting to pass the most onerous tax increase in history.

Just months ago, state lawmakers shattered the record for single-session tax increases, increasing the overall burden on Silver State residents by more than 19 percent. This came only six years after setting the previous record. Since then, private citizens have floundered while our protected government class has continued to flourish. In the Las Vegas Valley, unemployment has topped 13 percent. Property values and personal income continue to fall. Yet, lawmakers approved an increase in state spending.

Now, only six months later, they are maneuvering to dwarf 2009's tax increases in 2011.  The legislative Interim Finance Committee has explicitly directed Moody's Analytics to "review proposals for broad-based business taxes which are fair and equitable" in the hired firm's study of the state tax structure.

Yet the IFC's tax study is about much more than merely a new corporate income or gross-receipts tax. It's also intended to give cover for unprecedented expansion in the size and power of government. The IFC instructed Moody's not simply to consider how to reduce revenue volatility so that state government can continue its current operations. Moody's must consider how to fund a bevy of new spending programs to be proposed by a "stakeholder" group convened by the IFC.

The Nevada Vision Stakeholders Group, as it is called, is nothing more than a collection of special-interest groups — primarily, public employees and union representatives. The NVSG's ostensible purpose is to develop "quality of life" targets for residents of Nevada over the next five, 10 and 20 years, plus ways to achieve those targets. 

This centrally planned, quality-of-life ploy ignores the fact that private individuals choose everyday what will constitute their quality of life through voluntary exchanges in the marketplace. The top-down "vision" to be imposed on everyone in Nevada by the NVSG and this current gaggle of politicians will deprive individuals of the freedom to make choices on their own. Instead, all individuals are to be forced into the lifestyles conceived for them by this amazingly arrogant would-be elite.

Yet, lawmakers on the IFC have demonstrated little imagination as to how their autocratic quality-of-life goals might be achieved. They sought only to draw members to the NVSG from the five major areas of government spending — indicating a belief that only the 5 percent of the state making up the public sector should determine the quality of life for the rest of us. Clearly, this huge thumb on the scale is to ensure that — between lawmakers and their unelected water-carriers on the NVSG — a consensus will reign that desired quality-of-life improvements can only be achieved through increased government spending and, as a result, much higher taxes.

The IFC confirmed that suspicion this week when it selected 19 candidates to the NVSG.  The majority of those selected were predictably drawn from public-sector unions and other rent-seeking recipients of state funds. Three represent the mining and gaming industries, as lawmakers have doubtlessly recognized that, to ensure the NVSG's proposals aren't derailed, those industries will have to buy into the process.

The results of this process will be painfully predictable. Tax-dollar recipients will vote to take more wealth away from struggling private families in order to enrich themselves.  Mining and gaming representatives will go along with the proposals as long as they aren't the ones to bear the additional burden.

Who will lose? The 95 percent of Nevadans who won't be represented at the table. No taxpayer advocate was selected to the NVSG. No small-business advocate was selected.  Considering that one of the explicit purposes of this endeavor is to generate support for a new broad-based business tax, these oversights should come as no surprise.

Lawmakers are looking to use the NVSG as political cover in Carson City in 2011 when they drive for unprecedented expansion of government. They will claim to have achieved broad consensus among all the relevant interests. Don't be fooled. It is a lie. The interests of most Nevadans will not be considered by the NVSG.

All that will be considered is how much more you can be soaked.

Geoffrey Lawrence is a fiscal policy analyst at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

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