Just say no to tax hike initiative
By Chuck Muth
Back in 2003, the Nevada Legislature passed the largest tax increase in the state’s history – $833 million worth. They did so without bothering to allow the people an opportunity to vote “yes” or “no” on whether they wanted their taxes raised. Said the Imperial Legislature: “So let it be written, so let it be done.”
Two years later, state Sen. Bob Beers introduced a bill that would have limited government spending increases in Nevada to no more than the combined total of inflation plus population growth. The Imperial Senate, in its infinite wisdom, didn’t even allow a floor vote on the bill.
So Sen. Beers had to go out and collect 80,000-plus citizen signatures on a petition in order to put his Tax and Spending Control (TASC) initiative on the ballot. It was a long, difficult, expensive operation. But in the end, the idea was so popular that over 150,000 Nevada citizens signed up.
Alas, the Imperial Nevada Supreme Court looked the citizenry in the eye and declared, “Let them eat cake!” The initiative was stricken from the ballot over a minor technicality.
But that’s not the point. The point is that some legislators, led by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Dennis Nolan (R-Las Vegas), are frustrated like nobody’s business that Gov. Jim Gibbons not only pledged to veto any tax hikes, but has had the gall to stick to his word (gasp!). And since the governor won’t let the Legislature raise taxes without vetoing them, these legislators proposed this week to go around the governor and take their case directly to the people by putting a tax hike to fund highway construction on the ballot.
Which is fine, if they have to go through the same process to raise our taxes that Sen. Beers had to go through to try to restrain government spending. If some legislators want to put a tax hike on the ballot, they should go out and get tens of thousands of citizen signatures on a petition to do so. They should not put it on the ballot themselves.
Unless they give voters a true choice on the ballot initiative. For example, the choice shouldn’t be, “Do you want to raise the gas tax by 5 cents per gallon, yes or no?” It should be, “Do you want to raise the gas tax by 5 cents per gallon or lower the gas tax by 5 cents per gallon?” I’d be more than happy to have the Legislature put such a choice on the ballot.
But something tells me legislators who claim to be raising taxes on the people, from the people and for the people don’t really want to let “those people” have an opportunity to CUT their taxes. I think they rightly assume the people would take the tax cut any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.
Raising taxes shouldn’t be easier than limiting spending. If legislators want to put a tax hike on the ballot, they should do so the old-fashioned way. They should earn it. Just like Sen. Beers did.