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Let’s stop shooting ourselves in the foot

Dr. Eugene T. Paslov
For the Nevada Appeal

We are in the middle of the worst depression in Nevada’s history. We need strong leadership to reinvent our economic system and help us recover.

Nevada’s senior senator, the majority leader and arguably Nevada’s most powerful voice in the U.S. Congress, is a key leader to help our state achieve new economic vitality. Yet we have some who seek to replace him with a political novice.

Unfortunately, shooting ourselves in the foot is not a new phenomenon.

In the 1864 Constitutional Convention, William Stewart, a lawyer paid by the Comstock Corporation, put into our Constitution a “net proceeds tax.” The effect of this provision was to protect the mining industry from paying their fair share of taxes.

Mining, then as now, is a major industry in Nevada; yet the profits are leached out to national and international corporations.

Soon after the end of the 19th century, tourism became important; we devised ways to entice tourists to spend money in the state, keeping our taxes low. Quickie divorces, marriages and gaming (Nevada had nearly exclusive control over these industries) are in the 21st century either gone or seriously diminished because of competition.

In the 1930s, Nevada policymakers – business and political leaders – developed a marketing campaign, “One Sound State.” During the Depression years Nevada did well, primarily because of its small population and minimal public service requirements. We also benefited from New Deal stimulus public works projects, Boulder Dam, for example.

One Sound State promised a balanced budget, no corporate taxes, no incomes tax, no inheritance tax, no tax on gifts and no tax on intangibles. The objective was to draw the “best” – the wealthiest – to the state. Low taxes in the end, however, did not help the state’s infrastructure or schools.

In 1981 the Legislature shifted property taxes to sales taxes, a reaction to California’s Proposition 13 and an attempt to shift local tax burden to tourists. In 1989 the Legislature (and our citizens) voted to prohibit income tax, and put the prohibition into the Constitution.

Nevada will recover, but it will not be based on a renewal of gaming, tourism or any of our current industries to their previous levels. It will require strong leadership; it will rely on a vigorous partnership between the federal government and the state.

Sen. Reid is in the best position to help Nevada develop and support high-end industries that will provide good paying jobs – alternative energy, medical services, industrial research and intellectual capital to mention a few.

Let’s send Sen. Reid back to the Senate. That will be the smart thing to do.

• Dr. Eugene T. Paslov, former Nevada superintendent of schools, is a board member for Silver State Charter High School in Carson City.