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Chuck Muth: How sneaky legislators are trying to get around Nevada tax restraint law

The tax-hikers in the Nevada Legislature are as unscrupulous as they are relentless.

At issue this time is a pair of cunningly wily bills: Senate Bill 149 and Assembly Bill 375. But before talking about these scams, everyone needs to understand something about how Nevada’s government is set up.

The various counties and cities do NOT have “home rule.” Which means they can’t raise taxes on you and me on their own. Only the Nevada Legislature is supposed to be allowed to do so. So legislators should either change the “home rule” law or follow it – not try to get around it.

Secondly, efforts to RESTRAIN taxes over the years have had no chance of passing in the Legislature – even when Republicans were in charge. So conservatives have been forced to go out and collect signatures – a very expensive and time-consuming process – in order to put tax restraint measures on the ballot.

That includes the Gibbons Tax Restraint Initiative which constitutionally requires a 2/3 super-majority vote of the Legislature to raise taxes that was approved TWICE by Nevada voters.

Now comes the 2017 Legislature…

Washoe County wants a tax hike to fund some flood control projects and Clark County wants a tax hike to fund some transportation projects. But they don’t want to vote to raise taxes (again) themselves. So here’s how they’re trying to sneak around it.

AB 375 and SB 149 would enable UNELECTED local commissions and boards to recommend sales or property tax hikes and REQUIRE the counties to then place those tax hikes on the ballot without gathering signatures the way we citizen-peasants are required to do.

As a reminder, fiscally conservative candidates who sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge when running for office promise their constituents and the people of Nevada that they will “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.” AB 375 and SB 149 are, inarguably, efforts to increase taxes.

SB 149 passed out of the Senate with only Tax Pledge signer Don Gustavson voting against it. And the Assembly passed AB 375 with only Tax Pledge signers Robin Titus, Jim Marchant and Richard McArthur voting “no.”

Now, it doesn’t surprise me that non-Pledge Republicans such as Minority Leader Paul Anderson and Assistant Minority Leader James Oscarson voted for this effort to circumvent and undermine the 2/3 super-majority law. But so did veteran Pledge signer Jim Wheeler!

And it’s not the first time Assemblyman Wheeler-Dealer’s broken his promise. How disappointing. Especially for someone who won his two toughest races against non-Pledge signers based primarily on his signing of the Tax Pledge.

But I guess once you go “native,” get a little taste of power and drink the Kool-Aid, the only thing that matters is political opportunism, not your word. Sad.

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach and publisher of NevadaNewsandViews.com

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