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April 25, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

Nevada’s unique time

Lawmakers have a chance to push state forward, fix serious issues


Tom Gorman

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, and Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, speak to the news media Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at the Legislative Building.

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Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick and state Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis have opened a discussion on overhauling the state’s antiquated tax system. During a news conference Tuesday, the leaders were pressed on whether the Legislature would once again kick the can down the road, as it has in past attempts. Both leaders expressed optimism and said they were pushing for change.

Denis said this is the “perfect” time for Nevada lawmakers to make the tough decisions because of the state’s ongoing financial crisis. “When we’re doing really well, nobody wants to talk about this stuff, (nor) when we’re doing really bad,” he said.

During a meeting with the Sun’s editorial board, Kirkpatrick agreed, saying there is a sense in the Legislative Building that there is momentum for change.

“We’re in a unique position in our state,” Kirkpatrick said. “Like Mo said, we’re not doing really well, we’re not doing really bad. It’s the time to come in and restructure things.”

Denis and Kirkpatrick are correct not only about the need to restructure the tax system, as we have noted before, but also in their assessment of the situation in Carson City. This year is ripe for the Legislature to take on not only taxes but also some of Nevada’s underlying problems.

That hasn’t always been the case. During the state’s boom times, political leaders didn’t deal with the challenges because there wasn’t a pressing need. During the recession, all anyone could do was just hang on.

Now, lawmakers should have a good perspective.

“We’ve cut a lot of things,” Kirkpatrick said. “We’ve cut education. We’ve cut mental health services. We’ve cut public safety. We’ve cut highway dollars. So we have to look at where we want to be.”

Indeed, this is the time to reassess and set a new course. And the Legislature is facing no shortage of issues. For example, issues before the Legislature last week included:

• Taxes: It’s clear the system is broken — some businesses go virtually untaxed while others shoulder the burden. The state’s tax code doesn’t provide stability, much less clarity, in many parts. The Legislature has seen many plans over the years but has yet to act decisively. What’s lacking is political willpower to get anything done.

• Higher education: Several lawmakers expressed concern about a plan to change the way state funds higher education. Rural and northern critics complained that the plan cuts budgets for rural community colleges and wanted campuses to be “held harmless.” Southern Nevada lawmakers questioned whether campuses in Clark County were getting the short end of the deal. From all we’ve seen, the proposal doesn’t adequately address longtime funding disparities, nor does it boost education funding to where it should be.

• Mental health: Lawmakers heard testimony last week about how easy it is for someone with a mental illness to get a gun. Overall, the state’s mental health system needs a shot in the arm.

In coming weeks, lawmakers will hear more about these issues as well as others. Given the problems facing Nevada, they should take advantage of this time.

They’re off to a good start, but they’ll have to use every minute. Just two weeks in, the Legislature is already done with a little more than 10 percent of its session. This is the time for lawmakers to make bold, important decisions to set the state on the proper course. The clock is ticking.

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  1. Nevada Lawmakers MUST ACT this session on our crippled educational system, mental health care, and tax codes. They must support E-VERIFY for all employers in Nevada, strengthening what remains with employment. According to CBS:Eye of Washington, 1 in 6 people in Nevada are US Military Veterans. Our state would be remiss in not supporting our military presence here.

    Nevada school districts have virtually devised a plan to compel teachers who have worked 5, or 10 years with districts to LEAVE, due to the current situation with the pay/step scale. Would the many of you work without a cost of living raise after five or ten years? Our Nevada utilities and insurance fees go up, yet, workers now must secure two jobs due to the current system. We already see a "brain drain" with graduates leaving Nevada, and our "irreplaceable educators" (as one superintendent coined the phrase) will be leaving the state for positions that offer cost of living adjustments regularly.

    To improve education, Lawmakers now need to put ENforcement teeth in the Parent/Teacher/Student Involvement Accord, especially holding parents and students accountable and responsible in their participation in Nevada education. Both academic and social issues would drastically improve by doing this. Taxpayer money is spent every year administrating this document, last Legislative Session administrators and teachers were held accountable with new evaluations, now we must focus on the very essence of the problem: student and parent involvement (or lack thereof)!

    Hopefully, our Nevada Lawmakers are ready to meet all these problems head on, instead of the usual response of kicking the can down the political road.

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. Democrats are involved in restructuring our tax system? Hold on to your friggin wallets, cars, houses and businesses---they are comin for them all.

  3. Here's the solution. Cut the government payroll by 1/3. All will be well.

  4. Start with a 100K Homestead exemption on Property Taxes for All Seniors. A Real Estate Transfer Tax of 2% that is refundable for Nevada Residents who occupy it as their Prime Residence to pay for the Homestead exemption.
    Replace our Education System with a Finnish Type System (They are one of the Worlds Best) to allow students to Leave Nevada if our elected Official are incapable of creating good Paying jobs here.
    Parents and Students that have multiple discipline violation should not be guaranteed an education. And Teachers should be paid fairly based on student improvement sampling from beginning to year ending, with No Tenure for anyone. Bureaucracy must be limited to 10% with all but a handful of positions paying LESS than a teachers salary.
    Have California take over the Clark County Health Care System with the Caveat of Building a Major Medical University in Las Vegas. Next to the new VA Hospital would be Great. The University should get monies from the state Dollar for Dollar the same as what is paid to the Reno Medial School. We have much more in common with LA than Reno.
    Tax Outdoor Events that are Exempt right now (ALL of them).

    Pass a Law that 80% of all taxes must remain in the County where it's collected.

    Mining should be taxed extremely high - they are taking form us what is not a renewable resource. You can only give it away Once.

    Raise Slot Machine Taxes very high on the first 100 Machines - then get progressively cheaper. This is to discourage the Plight of a Taverns and Slot Parlor in every block strip center. All I hear from visitors that venture off the Strip is how Ugly Las Vegas is.

  5. The SUT / tax system needs an overhaul to resolve court cases (casino comps), the numerous "exemptions" that the Nevada Tax Commission has given various industries, and the unworkable administrative burdens that preclude fair enforcement of the tax laws. Further, the formulas for dividing up the revenue needs to start over with more going into the general fund and eliminating factors to increase/decrease revenue returning to area generated--Vegas should get what Vegas generates. Ditto rural Nevada where few people need few services.

  6. Yes Nevada cut the budget from the PEAK... which was 2 years after the housing crash... but we're still spending as money money as we did at the housing bubble peak.

    We need to cut more spending ... There is a better way to do everything ... education, health care, welfare, transportation. Nevada Democrats and progressives choose to do these things in the most expensive ways (more to help employed government workers than the needy... sadly).