Such frankness of the new governor is refreshing. But the trouble with Nevada is what it was, let alone what it is.
Nevada is ranked near the bottom of the 50 states in so many categories. Examples:
• It is 48th in per capita spending on higher education.
• It ranks 49th in K-12 funding.
• It is 50th in the likelihood of a 19-year-old enrolling in college.
• It ranks 48th in people 25 to 34 who have completed college.
• It is 50th in child care.
Sandoval has pledged that the rot will continue by constantly repeating his mantra: “no new taxes.”
A far wiser governor realized that higher taxes are essential. That governor, Pat Quinn of Illinois, signed a law that raises the state income tax from 3 to 5 percent.
No one wants to see taxes raised. But realistic governors have no choice if they want to remain a humane state. (Illinois faced a budget shortfall of $15 billion.)
Sandoval, on the other hand, guarantees that Nevada will remain a sad sack state. Nevada has no personal income tax. It has no corporate income tax. When compared with the tax breaks big business gets, business taxes shrink to virtual nonexistence.
Nevada is clearly a tax haven.
The state does levy a sales tax but that is regressive, the poor paying as much as the rich.
The state also relies on “hidden taxes.” Fees for services go up and up. The once simple cost of re-
registering your car has ballooned.
Moreover, the mining industry and the gambling industry are greatly undertaxed in Nevada.
Andy Barbano, Trib columnist, points out that loopholes in the tax laws allow the mining industry to pay at a rate “far lower than an average non-union dishwasher.”
Corporations producing gold from land in Nevada are racking up record profits. Shareholders worldwide reap the gains. Mining firms in Nevada have had a free ride since the Grant Administration law of 1872.
Nevada casinos? Barbano notes that save for a handful of jurisdictions where there is less regulation, they “continue to enjoy the lowest gross gambling taxes in the world.”
He also targets Nevada business such as Wal-Mart big box stores which pay next to nothing on whooping profits.
The result of all this: dismantling of education.
The College of Southern Nevada has had to turn away thousands of student applicants for lack of room. Nevada research institutions are losing faculty lured by more lucrative offers out of state.
The University of Nevada, Reno, is budgeted for a 30 percent cut when you figure in a tuition hike, a faculty pay cut and increased costs of benefits. The K-12 budget calls for “stealing” $270 in support for each child.
Sandoval sleeps well despite such grim statistics. But education is too important to be left in the hands of seamy politicians.
In fact some businesses are refusing to come to this tax paradise. Two California companies refused to relocate in Las Vegas recently because Nevada lacks college graduates.
Beneath that smiling, friendly exterior Sandoval hides a mean streak.
He wants financially struggling college students to suffer a 12 percent tuition increase. In other words, a further step toward making higher education in Nevada too costly.
Faculty must take a 5 percent pay reduction, hardly an inducement for the best candidates to come to Nevada when openings are created by professors retiring.
Sandoval denounces public schools as full of incompetents who can’t be fired because of the teacher’s union.
He embraces a self-styled school reformer with a record of cruelty when she headed Washington, D.C., schools. His budget calls for a $100 million cut in mental health funding.
CityLife of Las Vegas reminded us that in his inaugural address Sandoval sounded like President Reagan of yesteryear.
Reagan in 1981: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”
Sandoval in 2011: “Some believe government is the only solution to our plight. I disagree. The cure is not more government spending but helping business create jobs.”
Democratic control of the state Assembly and Senate offers little hope for sanity to prevail. The Dems are gutless. Some know that taxes need to be raised but dare not even suggest such common sense.
“If we continue to cut education, Nevada will become a ghost state,” one Nevada student laments.
Not a ghost state but certainly the cheapest and worst in the nation. Governor Sandoval presiding.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.