Nevada taxpayers on Monday got a clear response from Gov. Steve Sisolak to the question in an old gag: How dumb do you think we are? The answer: pretty dumb.
As lawmakers convene in Carson City on Wednesday for a special session to deal with the coronavirus budget crater, the governor revealed that he’s amenable to raising taxes on beleaguered Nevadans and businesses. But tax hikes passed to close the $1.2 billion hole would be, he insisted Monday, “short-term, stopgap measures.”
Cue the laugh track.
How often are Nevadans supposed to fall for this bait-and-switch nonsense? Just last year, majority Democrats overrode two tax sunset provisions, opting instead to extend a technology fee attached to some DMV transactions and to kill a provision that would have automatically lowered certain payroll tax rates.
To make matters worse, they claimed that none of this maneuvering amounted to a tax “hike” even though the result was to increase revenue for the state treasury. They crafted this cynical position as a fig leaf to give them cover to ignore the taxpayer-approved constitutional requirement that tax hikes pass with two-thirds majorities in both legislative houses.
The issue is currently being litigated.
And let’s not forget that in 2013, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval convinced lawmakers to extend a litany of taxes that had been passed under the premise that they would eventually expire.
Let’s face it: The tax sunset gimmick has become such a joke that it’s remarkable any lawmaker can make the assurance with a straight face. But, then again, we are talking about politicians.
Gov. Sisolak was notably coy on precisely what levies he believes can be raised when unemployment exceeds 25 percent and the gaming and tourism industries are hemorrhaging. Perhaps he just wants to keep his options open while he prays for a federal bail out. But it’s highly revealing that the first instinct of the governor and legislative Democrats is to come after as-yet-unnamed taxpayers rather than to seek concessions from state government employees, who have been asked to contribute virtually nothing during this crisis while their private-sector counterparts hang by a scrawny tree limb over a deep crevice.
Barring any more lexicographical shenanigans by the majority, a tax hike will require at least one GOP vote in the state Senate. Republicans must hold firm. And any Democrat who jumps on the tax train by trying to pacify Nevadans with pabulum about “sunsets” will, in fact, be revealing a deep contempt for those they’re supposed to represent.