Will gaming consent to tax increase? | NevadaAppeal.com

Will gaming consent to tax increase?

Nancy Dallas

The battle has begun in earnest.

Sen. Joe Neal against the gaming industry. The citizen taxpayer against the giants of the industry that fuels our state’s economy.

If enough signatures are collected on Sen. Neal’s initiative petition, will the Legislature agree to raise the maximum tax on gross casino revenues from 6.25 percent to 11.25 percent? If the Legislature balks, will the people do it for them?

Is the petition process the right way to go about our state’s business?

It takes money to run government. As we pay our many taxes, fees and assessments, we can only hope the money is not spent on wasteful, extravagant and unnecessary programs. (What is deemed wasteful, extravagant and unnecessary is, of course, the source considerable debate between political factions.)

And when the government inevitably comes looking for more money, we groan and moan and hope they will consider all possible sources equally before aiming another direct hit on us.

Since 1980 the gross revenue gaming tax in Nevada has increased 3/4 of one percent to the current 6.25 percent, set in 1989. Sen. Neal, rebuffed in his attempts to raise it an additional 2 percentage points in the last legislative session, now proposes to increase the gross revenue tax 5 percentage points, to 11.5 percent (an 80 percent increase).

Here are some of the taxes you and I pay that have increased since the “great tax shift” of 1981:

– Insurance premiums tax – up 75 percent (levied in only six states)

– State general sales tax – up 85 percent

– County/local property taxes – up 115 percent

– Drivers license fees – up 250 percent;

– Basic automobile registration fee – up 310 percent

– State portion of the property tax – up 500 percent

– Minimum and maximum smog inspection fees – up 100 percent

– State gasoline taxes – up 290 percent.

Comparative rankings published annually by the Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C., in 1997 placed Nevada as the sixth highest taxed state.

(Tax information published in the February 1999 issue of the Nevada Journal, a publication of the Nevada Policy Research Institute.)

I oppose raising any tax if revenue is not needed. However, if additional revenue is needed in the near future, I don’t think the private citizen and small-business owners should continue to be “nickled, dimed and dollared” to death, while the enormous gross revenues of our state’s largest casinos go untouched again.

(Even the Nevada State Education Association wants to hit the little guy and leave the gaming industry untouched. Their upcoming petition drive will ask for a 5 percent tax on net profits exceeding $25,000 for all businesses – except casinos!)

Yes, the gaming industry pays a number of other taxes, but so does the private citizen. What percentage of your paycheck goes toward taxes of one type or another?

Yes, the gaming giants have been admirable community members, donating to numerous good causes – but so does many a private citizen who, by the way, has considerably less control over his gross revenue than the gaming industry.

Nevada’s tax base is limited. Gov. Guinn’s review of our state’s government, tax structure and future needs is commendable and long overdue. It will hopefully lead to a means of funding the growing demands upon our state budget that will be fair and amenable to all.

Additional revenue may be needed before then, however.

With the Legislature having shown an apparent unwillingness to counter the purveyors of the golden trough that holds sway over their political fortunes, the people of this state now have the opportunity to tell their elected representatives where they think future funding should come from – more fees, taxes and assessments on themselves, or from the industry that, directly or indirectly, brought them here.

The petition process was devised for just this purpose and it bothers me when I hear elected officials speak disparagingly of it. Are they saying “You were quite smart to elect me to this office, but you are not smart enough to be allowed to disagree with the majority of the Legislature”?

If there is enough interest in an issue to garner the required number of signatures on a petition, it should send a message to all concerned. And if this message is not heard, the people then have the recourse to express their views at the ballot box.

It is a reality of political life that to remain an elected official you pay homage to certain special interests. In Nevada that means you do not tax the gaming industry unless they give you permission to do so.

If the gaming industry continues to be unwilling to give their consent to an increased gaming tax, the people should also have the opportunity to speak on whether they consent to assuming that tax burden or not.

Think about it.