Nevada could use taxpayer bill of rights

Now is the right time for Nevada to consider some form of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, the kind of tax-limiting legislation in effect in Colorado since 1992 and proposed in two forms this week by Sen. Bob Beers.

Senate Joint Resolution 5, the one we favor, has as its basic elements:

n A limit on spending by state or local governments of the previous year's expenses plus inflation and population gains.

n Two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature or local governing bodies to raise taxes beyond that limit.

n A vote of the people in the next general election to either ratify or reject a tax increase.

n Refunds to taxpayers of any excess tax revenues collected.

n A 3 percent rainy-day fund to help governments get through down times.

How could anyone quarrel with a limit on governmental growth tied to inflation and population? There is no reason for government spending to outpace the people trying to support it.

In Nevada, the lone argument might be that the state has been so parsimonious in its spending on education and social programs that it has some catching up to do.

But that's why it is a good time to push through a TABOR amendment. Gov. Kenny Guinn and the Legislature succeeded in obtaining record tax increases in 2003, and they have now generated more money than imagined - so much so that taxpayers deserve roughly $300 million in rebates.

Nevada lawmakers can learn from Colorado's experience by including some exceptions to account for expenses beyond their control, such as health-care costs and unfunded federal mandates.

Begin the process now, while the economy is percolating and population is booming, to guarantee a sensible, frugal fiscal policy will always be a part of the Nevada constitution.


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