Our existing tax system has created a Donner Party mentality of primitive survival, even if it means sacrificing our children’s education. And our kids are on to us. At the Sun Youth Forum last year, 82 percent of Las Vegas’s brightest youth said they have no intention of living here as an adult. What does that say about us as a state?
It’s not just education that is suffering because of our state’s dysfunctional tax system. Nevada is among the top three states where the childhood poverty rate has worsened over the last year; 25 percent of our children under the age of 5 live in poverty. If Nevada were to fix its regressive tax system, we could provide pathways out of poverty, including child care, heath care, nutrition and of course, education, and break this cycle forever.
Nevada has the second lowest tax load in the country, according to the Tax Foundation. That might sound great, but if low taxes mean more jobs, why are we leading in unemployment?
Nevada has fewer public workers per capita than any other state. Demand on services is growing, but the number of public workers is shrinking.
Forced austerity by choking revenue through a dysfunctional tax system is a cruel hoax, as Robert Reich recently stated. Cruel because it hurts those who are already suffering the most, and a hoax because it doesn’t work.
The worst thing a state can do in a recession is to weaken the public services that a strong economy needs, like education, health care, transportation, and public safety. If we don’t invest in our schools, put college out of reach for kids, if we fail to invest in our transportation system, then when prosperity returns we won’t be positioned to benefit.
And there were even more who wanted to speak here in Las Vegas. Actual educators wanted a chance to speak on what they experience in actual Nevada schools. Unfortunately for them, the committee decided not to take any spoken testimony from supporters. (Yet for some reason, opponents here had a chance to speak.)
Opponents came armed with talking points.
"Stop taxing us!"
"Cut the waste!"
"Don't throw any more money at it!"
A few legislators actually asked for solutions. And of course, they had none.
But that doesn't matter in Carson City. All that matters is that corporate lobbyists don't like it.
Again, never mind that The Education Initiative is modeled after the margins tax system in Texas. Never mind that the status quo has failed us here in Nevada. And never mind that the supposed "high tax sewer" state of California now has a balanced budget and higher funding for public education thanks to Prop 30.
After plenty of the testimony I described above, Assembly Member
Peggy Pierce (D-Las Vegas) finally had a chance to say this.
Peggy Pierce to biz folks: "You guys haven't liked anything in the quarter century I've lived in this state....So what's the solution?"
More Pierce: "Come election night 2014, you are all going to be looking like Karl Rove. 'Gee, I didn't know that was going to happen'" Ouch.
And she's not alone in thinking or saying this. The time has come.