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Nevada: The Republican promised land?

Welcome to Las Vegas, Republican presidential candidates!

You’ll soon discover that, if you’re a Republican, this state has everything for you to love.

First, we’ve got no corporate income tax and no personal income tax. In fact, the latter is specifically banned by the state constitution.

We have a constitutional limitation on mining industry taxes, which allows corporate profits to soar even as the prices of precious metals set new records.

Our gambling industry — the only business in Nevada that pays taxes on its gross receipts — still pays the lowest gambling taxes anywhere in the world. In fact, the Tax Foundation ranks Nevada as the fourth best state in which to do business in the country, behind only South Dakota, Alaska and Wyoming.

We’re 49th on the Foundation’s 2009 rankings of state and local tax burdens, bested only by Alaska. 

In the last governor’s race, the Republicans and the Democrat ran on no-tax platforms.

Nevada has the fewest public employees, per capita, of any state in the nation and Washington D.C.

But Nevada’s public employees are still routinely demonized by business groups, think tanks and conservative commentators. Unions for school teachers, firefighters and government employees in general have been forced to take pay cuts because of the recession.

When it comes to regulations, business mostly sets the tone, because our state Legislature meets for four months every two years. Business lobbyists generally help write or revise legislation. Business lobbyists have also been known to serve as elected members of the Legislature. In Nevada, we call that eliminating the middleman.

If business doesn’t want something — say a gross receipts tax, even one proposed by a popular Republican governor — it simply doesn’t happen.

Private-sector entrepreneurs such as Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson — owner of The Venetian resort where you’ll be debating later today — are considered heroes. That’s true even though Wynn concocted a scheme to steal tips from his card dealers (unmolested by state regulators) and Adelson is being sued for allegedly stiffing his driver and part of his security detail on overtime wages, even though Forbes puts him at No. 16 on its list of global billionaires.

Nevada’s libertarian tradition runs so deep, we’re the only place left in the nation where prostitution is still legal in some rural counties.

In short, Nevada is pretty much a Republican paradise.

But there is a question I’ve been pondering, one I hope you may get asked at tonight’s debate.

It’s based on the fact that most of you candidates have said the prescription for jobs and fixing the economy is to lower taxes, reduce regulation and do everything you can to stimulate private-sector employment.

Well, we’ve done that here, and it hasn’t really worked out. We’ve got the nation’s highest unemployment rate and highest foreclosure rate. And we’ve taken longer to emerge from recession than most anyplace else in the country.

If low taxes lead job creators to start businesses, why aren’t we booming? Every state around us has a lower unemployment rate and a more diverse economy, but they all impose corporate income taxes. Why aren’t businesses in those high-tax states fleeing to low-tax, low-regulation Nevada? We’ve can’t even lure them here with ridiculous (taxpayer-financed!) ads produced by a guy who once said, “Government has one business, and that’s to beat the crap out of you.” (I’m guessing he’s one of yours.)

So what gives? Why, having tried the things you say should have taken us to the economic promised land, are we so miserable?

Welcome to Las Vegas, Republican candidates. Was it everything you hoped it would be?


Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/SteveSebelius or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or ssebelius@ reviewjournal.com.

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