A delicate balance
September 20, 2002
The Governor’s Task Force on Tax Policy in Nevada seems to be doing an admirable job of looking behind every tree to see just who might be tapped to help the state get through its fiscal crisis.
And that’s how it should be.
Nobody likes to be taxed. Worse, however, is the perception one group is being asked to carry more than its share of the tax burden.
So the recommendations so far of Gov. Kenny Guinn’s tax-policy group appear to make an effort to spread that burden around as much as possible. While nothing’s been decided, the group has tentatively endorsed:
–An amusement tax that would apply to a wide variety of things, from movie tickets to bowling league fees.
–Doubling the existing 35 cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes to 70 cents.
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–An increase in liquor taxes of about 70 percent, based on the rate of inflation since 1983, the last time liquor taxes were increased.
–A 10-cent increase in the property tax rate to $3.74 per $100 of assessed valuation.
–Requiring slot route operators to pay a tax on gross receipts rather than a flat fee per slot machine.
–Changing the timing and collection methods for existing taxes to give the state better opportunities to earn investment income.
Most of those would hit individuals — particularly a bowler who smokes, drinks and owns his own home — so a key factor will be whether the task force also recommends a gross receipts tax on businesses, which would generate a comparable amount of money as all those listed above.
Without a gross receipts tax, the recommendations would fall short of the goal of covering the state’s anticipated $359 million shortfall, as well as failing to evenly spread the burden.
Whatever the task force’s final recommendations, it will be up to Gov. Kenny Guinn to apply the tax proposals to his next two-year budget.
But taxpayers will want to keep a particularly sharp eye on the 2003 Legislature, where the ultimate decisions will be made and where the pressures will come to bear from special interests to slice and dice their way out of the tax proposals.
If new and increased taxes are to carry Nevada out of its budget wilderness, legislators must make sure the load is delicately balanced.
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