Las Vegas Sun

January 20, 2018

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J. Patrick Coolican:

Why Nevada Democrats’ Fun Tax is the New Coke of politics

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

The Mini-Golf Tax. The “Iron Man” Tax. The Burning Man Tax. I’m pretty sure most Nevadans enjoy one or more of those activities, which means if Democrats in the Legislature pass their new Nevada Entertainment and Admissions Tax, every Nevadan will curse them when they try to enjoy themselves on the weekend after a long workweek.

Wow, this is stupid. So, instead of imposing a corporate tax on Wal-Mart like nearly every other state in the country, you’re going to tax me when I go to the movie theater?

So I’ll pay $11.88 instead of $11? I love carrying 12 cents in my pocket.

Democrats: The party of stay home and watch bad TV.

The Buzzkill Party.

You know who else tacks on irritating fees when I buy tickets to my favorite events? Ticketmaster.

Way to go, Democrats. You’re the Ticketmaster Party.

As a smart lobbyist wrote to me in an email, “If I’m a movie theater, I’m going to post a sign on the ticket window that says the state of Nevada requires us to collect an extra 8 percent, with the legislative hotline number in big type. And if I’m a Republican candidate, I will hand out my fliers in the parking lot of the mini-golf.”

How did we get to this point?

Democrats want to come up with $350 million for education, most importantly for English-language learners, who are struggling badly here in Clark County.

OK, I can go along with that, and I’m pretty sure a fairly healthy margin of Nevadans agree.

Democrats need Republican votes to cross the necessary two-thirds threshold to get there. Ordinarily, that’d be impossible, as Republicans like tax hikes like they like San Francisco libruls.

But Dems have some leverage because the teachers union managed to qualify a 2014 ballot initiative for a 2 percent margins tax on business. Republicans and their business allies hate it, so they might be willing to strike a deal with Democrats to upend the education initiative, which otherwise has a good shot at passing.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson has pushed for a tax hike on the mining industry, which is busy taking a nonrenewable resource out of the ground in one of the friendliest tax environments in the world and sending the profits to Denver and Toronto, where Newmont and Barrick, the two big mining firms, reside.

But there’s no indication Democrats are dealing with Roberson, out of piquancy or distrust or whatever. Or maybe all that campaign money Democrats take from mining has clouded their judgment.

Short of a Roberson deal, what have they been doing up there? They’ve futzed around for nearly 100 days of the session with nothing to show for it. Where’s a broad-based business tax that will finally start forcing out-of-state multinational corporations to pay the freight? Where’s your own mining tax plan? Do they not get that people in Southern Nevada don’t give a damn about mining companies and would happily tax corporations for education, just like nearly every other state?

Oh, there might be some of that, according to the leaks coming out of Carson City. (It’s neither here nor there, but these Democrats have the communications acumen of the gun lobby. A day after they drop the "Great Gatsby" Tax, the state party has a petition on its website for tax breaks for movie productions in Nevada, with Nicolas Cage as its public face. So, you’re going to give tax breaks so Nic Cage can make terrible movies in Nevada, and then if I make the poor decision to see that movie, you’re going to tax me on it? It’s like they’re rolling out New Coke. They look like amateur ticket scalpers trying to dump a 51s ticket on a homeless man in the third inning.)

For whatever else is in the still-nonexistent tax plan, the centerpiece, the one tax Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick seems most enamored with, is the Fun Fee, the Joy Levy.

No more bread and circuses for us. Just bread.

There she is on “Ralston Reports” telling me that I’m willing to pay more for my movies to pay for education. There's already a live entertainment tax, but in the name of eliminating "loopholes," like movies, Kirkpatrick would tax a bunch of amusements that are now blessedly tax free.

Imagine the Republican play here: We wanted to tax out-of-state mining companies that are taking billions of dollars out of Nevada. Democrats, on the other hand, decided to tax your night out.

Water parks, wine tastings, ballgames, ski lift tickets. If this were to pass, every time Nevadans are confronted with the new tax at their favorite event, they’ll grimace, and they’ll think of one thing: Democrats.

Why not go whole hog and tax mom and apple pie?

Kirkpatrick prides herself on her policy chops. Well, guess what: The policy is just as bad as the politics.

The problem with Nevada’s tax system isn’t that middle-class families aren’t paying enough for their rare night out to see a show or a movie.

We have one of the most regressive tax systems in the country — those in the poorest 20 percent of the population pay 8.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes while the richest 1 percent pay just 1.6 percent in taxes.

(Which reminds me of my favorite joke: “The Aristocrats.” I would tell it to you, but first you have to hand over the Nevada Live Laughter Tax.)

And now we’re gonna increase the cost of entertainment, sports and culture 8 percent on poor and middle-class families who can barely afford it as is?

I’d like to think it’s an intentional flop, thereby running out the clock so the voters can impose the margins tax in 2014.

Like “The Producers”!

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