Sen. Joe Neal throws down the gauntlet to the gamboozlers
Expanded from the 10-17-99 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Herewith, you will find the first public peek at the text of Sen. Joe Neal's initiative petition to raise the gross gaming tax on Nevada's largest, most grossly profitable casinos.
It's available to readers of no other newspaper in the world and is being posted to http://www.joeneal.org/ as you read this.
The petition presents an indictment of a predatory industry which pays the lowest taxes in the world while forcing you to take up the slack from pothole repair to welfare. Here's a preview:
"The people of the State of Nevada hereby find and declare that:
"1. The growth of the gaming industry in this state has created a disparity in the diversification of the economy of this state;
"2. The gaming industry has a significant impact on governmental service requirements for the infrastructure necessary to preserve the economic, political and social health of this state such as schools, water projects, sanitation projects, police and fire protection, transportation projects and environmental protection;
"3. The gaming industry must pay its fair share of the financial burden of its impact on governmental services and the environment;
"4. It is contrary to the will of the people of the State of Nevada for the gaming industry to use its political influence gained through campaign contributions to shift its responsibility to pay its fair share of that burden to other businesses and private citizens by keeping taxes on gaming activities low or nonexistent with tax exemptions;
"5. The authority to conduct gaming in this state is a privilege and not a right, and is thereby subject to the will and control of the people of the State of Nevada; and
"6. The legislature shall not be unduly influenced or otherwise encumbered by the means of political contributions and shall only amend this chapter in furtherance of the will of the people of the State of Nevada to control gaming through taxation to ensure that the gaming industry pays its fair share of the financial burden of the impact of gaming on this state, including the costs of operating public schools, building and maintaining public roads and highways, facilitating effective state law enforcement, promoting appropriate economic diversification and otherwise maintaining the economic, political and social health of this state."
STILL THE WORLD'S LOWEST TAXES. The petition proposes to raise by five percent the rates on casino revenue exceeding $1 million a month. Taxes below that remain frozen at 1987 levels, the last year levies were increased.
Both mega-resorts and mom-and-pop gambling halls thus keep the lowest gaming tax rate in the world for their first million in any month.
AVOIDING THE CALIFORNIA ZERO-SUM GAME. The petition earmarks proceeds in order to avoid what happened to the California Lottery. It was sold to voters as a way to help education, but the legislature merely subtracted from the school budget an amount equaling the lottery income. Education ended up as bad as before.
BOOKS AND PENCILS FOR KIDS. Sen. Neal will devote 45 percent of the proceeds to school operations, excluding teacher salaries. Perhaps computers and books will no longer be in short supply due in large part to the millions taken away from school budgets by LV casino mogul Steve Wynn's art tax loophole.
CARING FOR SMOKY BEAR. Sen. Neal's "People's Petition" will bring up the salaries of Nevada Highway Patrolmen who now daily risk their lives for almost a third less than metro area peace officers. When 23 year-old trooper Carlos Borland was murdered by some thug near Lovelock five years ago, he was earning only about $25,000 a year.
REVENGE ON DMV. The North Las Vegas Democrat proposes to devote 38 percent of the proceeds toward reducing registration fees on automobiles. Consider it revenge for the long lines suffered at the hands of Gov. Dudley Do-Right's Genesis computer program.
THE UNSPEAKABLE DISEASE. Until the feds started inquiring, the gambling industry made sure government ignored customer addiction. Sen. Neal earmarks two percent of the proceeds to help Nevada's tens of thousands of problem gamblers.
THE SMOKING GUN. The keystone of Joe Neal's case rests on the argument that gaming does not contribute a fair share of taxes for the growth it spawns and the low wages it pays. The industry funds less than 10 percent of the state budget while getting about a third of its taxes or more returned in the form of corporate welfare programs.
"His only reason for taxing gaming is that he can," some pseudo-conservatives have carped.
They can't say that since Gov. Kenny Guinn's administration provided the smoking gun.
As disclosed in this column on Sept. 19, the Nevada Commission on Economic Development conducted a study which proved Sen. Neal correct. It also supported Nevada conservatives who have long questioned why state government has grown faster than its population and revenues.
The Smoking Gun Study shows that low-wage gambling industry jobs create the need for more government services to help mitigate the damage caused. The industry is simply not covering its markers.
Sen. Neal thus proposes to use seven percent of the gross gaming tax increase to fund economic diversification programs to bring higher paying jobs to Nevada.
Since that column, the state study has suddenly become unavailable. You will find it posted at http://www.nevadalabor. com/cop/ncedstudy.html
Let's go to work.
Be well. Raise hell.
© Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of U-News, where the past three years of columns may be accessed. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks Tribune since 1988 where an earlier version of this column appeared on 10/17/99.
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