Expanded from the 7-17-2005 Daily
Sparks (Nev.) Tribune.
Regular readers will recognize a construction guys' shorthand I occasionally utilize: BOHICA, which stands for bend over, here it comes again. Chains mandatory, whips optional, get set for a bumpy ride.
THE NEW ALL-TIME LOW. I had planned to lead off this week's screed with a rant against Sparks-Reno corporate welfare programs charitably euphemized as "redevelopment." But the capital city has just swiped the dishonor.
CORPORATE WELFARE EPIDEMIC
The Carson City newspaper's coverage of the auto industry corporate welfare story
(The link at left is the Reno paper's take.)
Carson government turns city hall into a gambling hall
Carson City Nevada Appeal editorial: Auto dealer stands to share in future tax revenue
Nevada Appeal editor quotes the Barbwire in his column
(See second item at above link.)
City of Sparks to go into debt and earmark tax money to build shopping center for developer, copying Reno.
Gov. Dudley Do-Right happy to help.
Carson City brahmins stand close to finalizing a deal to give the local Toyota dealer $3.6 million in corporate welfare payments over the next decade in exchange for a commitment to keep his stores within city limits for the next 15 years. All of this started when those wonderful folks at Wal-Mart moved across the line into Douglas County. Now, despite Wal-Mart building a new superstore in town, Carson runs scared about losing major sales tax generators.
The welfare payments will come from redevelopment area property taxes. What's next, condemning private homes so that some auto dealer may expand? (Read the Carson newspaper's story at top right and you'll see that potential in the tea leaves.)
This represents another symptom of Nevada governmental addiction to regressive taxes, levies which take an increasing percentage of a taxpayer's income the lower that person's income bracket. Those who pay the highest percentage are the weakest among us: senior citizens on fixed incomes, the disabled and the working poor.
Nevada has long dwelled at or near the bottom of states with the most regressive taxes. Our recent designation as 51st in the nation for the worst jobs puts underpaid workers behind several eight balls. They will have a hard time increasing their incomes and governments will always be hungry to pile on more hidden and regressive taxes, such as those on sales and gasoline.
RECOGNIZING THE BEAST The monster creating the problem is multi-headed. First, our primary industry causes more problems than it pays for. Casinos privatize profit while socializing risk. (Read the state study proving so in the web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com.) Wal-Mart is just doing what gambling began half a century ago.
Next, we are now into the third decade of Ronald Reagan's New Federalism, where federal programs were spun off to the states with inadequate funding, if any. Dubya's vaunted perversion of the educational system into one huge rote memory test-preparation exercise, aka No Child Left Behind (hardeeharhar), provides just one example.
Before Reagan, the states were models of fiscal rectitude. Now, they are all in disarray because of unfunded federal mandates. Naturally, state governments have done the same thing to cities and counties.
Call it a BOHICA hiccup.
All of this is made worse by factor number three, corporate welfare to many of the interests already being subsidized by the system.
Redevelopment agencies and convention and visitors authorities are the two worst examples.
Respectively, they suck property and room tax money out of the pipeline. As a result, other taxpayers have to pay for necessities such as roads, schools, police and fire protection. Sparks led the way, starting the state's first downtown tax redline district in the 1970s. By earmarking property tax increases for redevelopment, Sparks and Reno have now urinated about a quarter of a billion dollars down the Truckee River for very marginal and inefficient results.
Reno has just voted to start a second redevelopment district when its original is deeply in debt and being subsidized by general fund taxpayer money. The city council now wants to increase the sales tax in the name of more police protection. Las Vegas is trying to do the same. Sparks has had a devil of time trying to provide Spanish Springs with a new fire station.
Politicians know that it's easier to sell cops and firemen than point the finger at business interests bleeding the public treasury. These problems constitute admissions by cities that they can't afford proper police and fire protection because of these giveaways.
Just as our national economy would be so much better off if just a fraction of our trillions of unnecessary war preparation over the past half-century had been funneled into domestic programs, so too would local citizens benefit if a bit of that corporate welfare were refunded to the citizens. (Car registration rebates are not a good example, but provide a lesson: There is no fair way to rebate sales taxes.)
At least Sparks decided to give some redevelopment money to schools within its downtown redline.
The Washoe County School District usually gets hurt the worst, and currently sits behind several eight balls, one of its own rolling. Unlike their peers, WCSD honchos failed to ask the legislature to allow them to explore other sources of revenue to make up for property tax lost due to recent legislative caps. Go figure.
I'd like to call for tax reform, but every time somebody tries it in this state, the cure is worse than the disease.
So all I can say is BOHICA.
SHORT SHOTS. With all the action Harry Potter is getting this weekend, I fully expect the gambling industry to ask local governments to ban 24-hour book sales Wal-Mart has decided to promote the latest Potter edition with the mark of the beast, pricing it at $16.66. I suggest that you avoid dealing with the demon from Arkansas. Costco and Barnes & Noble are selling for less As Travus T. Hipp has often opined, sometimes cheap shots are the only shots you get. Minions of Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., fired back at University Chancellor Jim Rogers' terming the gubernatorial frontrunner as "not very bright." Mr. Rogers is correct. Despite all his education and experience, Gibbons has proven a rather dumbed-down demagogue. His recent smears and rants are nothing new. A decade ago, he spoke at a breakfast meeting I attended and railed against foreign aid. I asked him if he knew how much we actually spend. He didnt, then blusteringly tried to include other programs to justify his misleading overstatements. Gibbons is dumb as a fern and thus overqualified to be governor. This rube is presidential material. Gibbons for President you heard it here first Speaking of elections, Reno lawyer Kate Marshall is telling friends and associates that she is running for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state. She was one of the original members appointed by the Reno City Council to its cable consumer panel, upon which I still serve. With her impressive qualifications, she should consider a run for attorney general...I'll mix it up with Sam Shad's usual suspects on Nevada Newsmakers this Thursday and thereafter on various radio and TV stations statewide. Click here for the schedule.
Be well. Raise hell.
Public financing of downtown Reno ballroom still a crapshoot
Reno Gazette-Journal 7-15-2005
Chancellor's words fuel rift with Gibbons
Las Vegas Review-Journal 7-17-2005
...and more ammo
For detailed info on really big time Nevada corporate welfare, search JoeNeal.org
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Copyright © 2005 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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