Monday, February 20, 2012

"Re-Funding" & Restoring Nevada

On Saturday, the RGJ ran an article on the precipitous drop in big casino property tax revenues that Washoe County has to deal with. And believe it or not, it's leading to an interesting discussion on Nevada's chronic tax woes.

Fifteen resort properties in Washoe County together are valued at $710 million for property taxes -- a loss of about half their value over four years — as their profits have shrunk or turned into losses.

It’s a dramatic piece of evidence that Nevada needs to change its tax policies, said Elliott Parker, University of Nevada economics department chairman in Reno. In all, Nevada gaming revenues have fallen hard, shrinking by 15 percent over the last four fiscal years.

“You can’t get anybody to do anything,” said Parker, who favors broadening the tax base to include services, the biggest part of the economy.

“Voters keep re-electing people who don’t do anything to fix the problem. Now that it’s here, we’re all shocked.” [...]

“Nevada cannot be as dependent on a single industry for tax revenues in the future as it has been in the past,” Bill Eadington, UNR’s gaming professor, wrote in a paper last year. “Economists in the state have been warning about this for 50 years. With the Great Recession, Nevada has finally got burned.”

Nevada has indeed been burned this time... But is someone finally coming to our rescue? On Friday, Ralston interviewed none other than Kermitt Waters. Remember him? He's pushing the tax reform initiative that has all of Nevada's big power players running scared.

Remember, Waters' initiative would levy a 20% tax on mining and a gross receipts tax on businesses earning more than $1 million a month if passed. It would definitely go great lengths to broaden Nevada's tax base. But since it would do so in a way that eats into the profits of the biggest corporations doing business here, they don't like it.

And remember, Waters' proposal isn't the only tax plan floating around. Monte Miller is following through on his threat to introduce gaming and mining tax initiatives, and Nevada AFL-CIO chief Danny Thompson continues to rally troops for his planned initiative to implement a business margin tax. 2012 may finally be the year that Nevadans get serious about talking tax reform.

And apparently since incoming revenue is still nowhere near levels that state and local government need, and since Nevada families are getting sick and tired of seeing any more teachers fired and classrooms shut down while roads remain in disrepair and parks remain closed, we may actually see more willingness to finally do something about it.

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