How now, cash cows? Major players in Big Casino Y2K


Expanded from the 2-27-00 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Despite a decade as the fastest-growing state in the union, Nevada governments will go broke in the next few years unless taxes are raised. Here's the latest scouting report on the major players.

GOV. DUDLEY DO-RIGHT has reached his own conclusion that growth stopped paying for itself about five years ago. Taxes need to be raised, not a little, but a lot.

Former Guinn administration chief of staff Snidely Whiplash recently disclosed that the state faces about $700 million in annual deficits within a few years just from the demands of Medicaid and the Clark County School District.

One report says sprawling Clark County itself will face more than $600 million of annual red ink within this decade. Gov. Guinn stands in an advantageous position for several reasons. With little credible disagreement that tax hikes are needed, the major tax targets will have to come to him offering solutions. It could give him a totally Republican legislature for the first time in recent memory.

ASSEMBLY AND SENATE CANDIDATES are drowning in the mother of all pickle barrels. According to University of Nevada research, about seven of 10 Nevadans have long supported a gaming tax increase.

Some major campaign contributors oppose the gaming tax hike. This presents more of a dilemma for Democrats. Sucking up to big business is usually a ticket to ride for GOP candidates.

Democrats have to at least go through the motions of giving a damn about the great unwashed. But if Democrats want enough money to remain competitive, they may face a gaming tax litmus test. And some of the exams may be administered by their friends in organized labor.

NEVADA UNIONS are tripping down the yellow brick road toward the harsh realities of Yogi Berra Land.

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it," the hall of fame Yankee catcher once advised. Labor is stuck on that fork. Some southern Nevada building trades unions have been convinced that any gambling industry tax increase will jeopardize the next round of high rise construction on the Las Vegas Strip.

That may well prove a false assumption. Latest reports seriously question whether any new high rises will get underway within the next three or four years. The trend is big mergers, not big buildings.

FEB. 18, 2000 -- NevadaLabor.com editor Andrew Barbano marched with more than 600 area union members and local hotel-casino workers in support of Culinary Union contract negotiations.

Making opposition to a popular and necessary gaming tax increase a litmus test for endorsement and contribution will dry up a large source of campaign money for Democrats. This plays right into Guinn's hands. He has made a GOP takeover of the state assembly his principal goal this November.

Many unions, construction and otherwise, will continue to almost exclusively fund Democrats, but a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Both the 55,000-member Culinary union and the Nevada AFL-CIO opposed legislative proposals last year by Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas. Culinary led the charge to kill Neal's bills to limit gambling influence on politics (SB 86) and to raise the gross gaming tax on the largest, most obscenely profitable casinos (SB 88). (Read more about the legislative intrigues at Casinos Out of Politics.)

Las Vegas columnist Jon Ralston recently reported that Culinary and AFL-CIO leaders have agreed to oppose Neal's gaming tax initiative petition. It ain't necessarily so. Neal was long ago installed in the Nevada organized labor hall of fame. Union members throughout the state have great loyalty to their longtime champion.

Culinary's guarded comments to the Reno Gazette-Journal earlier this month illustrate the quandary.

"We don't have a position on that right now," union official D. Taylor told the Reno paper.

"We've heard people worried about jobs, people worried about negotiating wage increases," he said, adding that the state also has a lot of needs.

"I think that there is a strong feeling that people should pay their fair share," Taylor stated, but would not say what constitutes same.

The AFL-CIO cannot take an official position until its May endorsement convention to be held at the Reno Hilton.

Cracks in union solidarity over the gaming tax issue will place labor-friendly candidates in opposition to strong public sentiment and in jeopardy at the polls.

Republican control of both the legislative and executive branches will bring repeal of Nevada's prevailing wage law, the bedrock of construction union pay. The Guinn administration wants to depress building trade wages as a way to cheapen public works projects.1

RAISING THE HIGH IRON (8-3-99)-- Members of Ironworkers Local 118 build the Reno Peppermill Hotel-Casino expansion for TNT Construction. Ironworkers are among the highest paid in construction given the high skill and danger levels of the job. See "High Steel Spidermen"

Guinn also made a campaign promise to sign a legislative measure which would cause all union political funds to be eaten up by costly government red tape and paperwork.

THE DEMOCRAT AND REPUBLICAN STATE PARTIES are now in the final stages of a corporate takeover and rebranding as the Gaming Party. 2 Casino mergers and acquisitions will not be limited to Wall Street.

CALIFORNIA TRIBAL CASINOS will continue to laugh all the way to the bank. Nevada clubs pay the lowest taxes in the world and use their profits to export construction and operating jobs to competing states. With the help of the Gaming Party, the gambling-industrial complex is using Neal's initiative petition to divert attention from the dangers posed by a rash of Nevada joint ventures with California tribes. 3

THE NEVADA TEACHERS UNION recently got an education on the state constitution, which says all taxes must be applied equally. The Nevada State Education Association's long-promised business income tax petition thus cannot exempt the gambling industry. So do they want to fight every Nevada business, or just the big casinos by supporting Neal's gaming tax? Long, sad experience has taught me that if you bet on NSEA to do the dumbest thing, you'll usually win.

Be well. Raise hell.

Read More About It:

1 Assembly Republican minority leader targets prevailing wages.

2 the Gaming Party corporate takeover
"Why Jones got her party spot" by Jon Ralston, Reno Gazette-Journal
Battlefield dispatches from the Sagebrush Plantation

Political porno: who's doing what, with which & to whom

3 Gaming Party veteran, Assembly Speaker Joe Dini, D-Yerington, a casino owner, paints Neal's tax petition, which is at least three years away from the polls, as a greater threat than California tribal casinos.

NevadaLabor.com | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks Tribune since 1988.

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