Thursday, July 1, 2010

(Failed) State of Cheap

Surprise! Nevada's "tax burden" is among the tiniest in the nation!

Nevada’s state and local tax burden ranks 50th out of 51, according to one study that includes Washington, D.C. A family of three living in Las Vegas with a $75,000 annual income had the 47th lowest tax burden compared with a similar family in each state’s largest city, another study found. More, we reportedly have near-bottom levels of taxpayer funding for welfare, education and parks.

Yet the political and policy debate in Nevada is all about who can most convincingly promise not to raise taxes. Both candidates for governor say they can improve education by better spending existing revenue (we supposedly rank 49th nationally on spending per pupil). All but a few liberal legislators deny that they will consider raising taxes to close the state’s $3 billion budget deficit. [...]

The Taxpayers Network said our welfare spending ranks 50th. We have the fourth fewest state employees. We rank 40th on parks and natural resources. And from 1998 through 2007, state spending per capita was among the slowest to grow.

Republican legislators such as state Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio of Reno declare that we have one of the leanest state governments in the country. But he’s still met by accusations that he’s a Republican in name only.

He said voters are the angriest he’s ever seen.

“People keep on being fed misinformation,” he said. “I don’t think they understand the true situation of what the tax burden is in Nevada.”

Of course. It's easy to listen to Sharrontology Obtuse Angle and "Where's Brian?" Sandoval and conclude we're being taxed out of our living daylights... But then these facts arrive, and we're forced yet again to face reality. Let me again dig up that something we've done nothing about for far too long.

1. Nevada is already the cheapest state in the nation -- for the size of the state's economy, Nevada spends less on state government than any other state.

2. Nevada's tax structure is already one of the most regressive in the nation.

3. Nevada is one of only three states without a corporate income tax or a gross receipts tax on business (the other two being the mostly uninhabited pseudo states of Wyoming and South Dakota).

4. Probably in no small part because of 2 and 3, Nevada's budget shortfall was already the largest in the nation even before release of the latest numbers revealing that the state is more broke than earlier projected.

5. Taken all in all then, proportionally, Nevada will now be cutting more money than any other state from services that are already funded less than in any other state.

Remember, Mr. Gleaner said this over a year ago. And now, this problem is even worse since we've had two more budgets slashing even more on essential services. So now the DMV is regularly running four day work weeks, other state agencies are following suit, local libraries and community centers and after school programs are being forced to cut hours even more, schools are facing dilemmas over laying off even more teachers and/or cutting days in the school year...

And we wonder why Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation? Why Las Vegas is woefully overdependent on the casinos? Why so many roads around town look like crap (and feel like crap when driving on them)? Why many neighborhoods around town have experienced "crime waves"? And why despite having the second smallest tax burden in the nation, businesses still aren't rushing to relocate in Nevada?

Come on, haven't we talked about this before? As long as we refuse to invest what's needed in our schools, our parks, our roads, and all in all our basic infrastructure, we will never succeed as a state. And as long as our state offers a not-so-well-educated workforce and limited community services, those new businesses won't come and we will continue to be stuck, overdependent upon casinos that aren't investing as much in our state as the global gaming sector expands and new opportunities in Macau, Singapore, Eastern Europe, Mexico, and elsewhere outshine what we once had to offer.

Jeez, what will it take to get our state to wake up and smell the napalm (of "failed state of cheap")?

1 comment:

  1. To be fair, Southern Nevada is, in it's natural state, pretty ugly with the exception of some lands which are federally protected. Spending money on a bunch of parks is useless if they make our water situation worse and nobody can enjoy them because it's too hot for six, sometimes even seven months of the year.

    I'm not sure what the solution will be. An increase of property tax would work if only property would stop freefalling and generally behaving so unpredictably.

    As our population naturally stagnates and retracts, I would like to see a shutdown of some schools and moving classes to other campuses. The amount of schools is intended to serve (and has also encouraged) the amount of sprawl going around the valley and I assume that will not be returning. More schools mean more administrators (principals, councilors, office workers, etc) and by consolidating the number of schools in the District somewhat, we can return some of that money to teachers.

    Statewide, teachers are 22nd according to that study, which means we're probably pretty close to the median. The only real problem is cost of living is higher in Clark, so finding enough teachers in SoNV is a lot harder than elsewhere. State spending is probably alright, but our local district needs restructuring.