Thursday, May 9, 2013


Is this NEAT or what? Earlier this week, we caught a whiff of Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick's (D-North Las Vegas) latest tax bill. And now, we have NEAT... Which is also referred to as AB 498.

Last night, Speaker Kirkpatrick appeared on "Ralston Reports" to discuss her proposal for the Nevada Entertainment Admissions Tax (NEAT). It replaces the current Live Entertainment Tax that levies 5% on some venues, 10% on others, and 0% (no, really) on others, with an across-the-board 8% rate that applies for everything from Strip shows to movie theaters to golf courses. And it's rumored to bring in at least $50 million this session.

Apparently, this is the beginning of #NVLeg Democratic leadership's rollout of their official tax plan. Ralston wrote earlier today about the full tax package that's being cooked up as we speak. Apparently, it will raise roughly $350 million in the coming biennium (with AB 498 included).

Yet before it can raise any money, it has to pass. How can it pass? Ralston envisions a scenario where Democratic leaders enter into a pact with "The Senate GOP Mod Squad" and various corporate lobbyists to force the unions to give up The Education Initiative in exchange for yet another "Frankenstein Budget".

This is the dream scenario – and not just for Democrats. As the business community – or at least some – and the gaming folks – or at least some –realize that the the margins tax on the ballot could pass unless the teachers are willing to euthanize it, many here in the capital are starting to talk about such an endgame scenario.

But is this the stuff of Grimm, or a grim reminder that some sort of ugly mishmash of taxes, cobbled together to reach a number and without regard to policy, likely will pass this session, as so often happens? Or is this unlikely to become even a fractured fairy tale, with the denouement being that partisanship will trump cooperation and the teachers will whistle a merry tune on their way to the ballot in 2014, with gobs of money spent against the margins tax and a chance – a chance – it passes anyhow.

Perhaps this is just a reminder that we can no longer band-aid and "quick fix" our way out of a long brewing systemic disease. For far too long, Nevada "leaders" have patched together budgets that looked "reasonable" on the surface, but ultimately did little or nothing to truly fix our long-term problems. Case(s) in point: 2003... And 2009... And 2011.

As the 76th session of the Nevada Legislature came to a close in June 2011, I asked why We the People should not finally go to the ballot box to fix what couldn't be fixed in Carson City. And frankly, I'm still asking that today. Why not just do it already?

Let's face it: The two main tax plans being discussed up there now are shit sandwiches. One is likely illegal and definitely political(ly toxic). And while the other one has some decent elements, it's just another hodge-podge of patchwork that doesn't really fix the root problem or cure the systemic diseases of regressive taxation & chronic underfunding of our public infrastructure. Both may be better than what we have now, but neither offers a true cure.

Something must change. The status quo in Carson City is no longer just unpalatable. It's now simply unacceptable. And if the Governor and (many) legislators still can't see that, then it's time for We the People to change it.

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